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23-11-2011 | Mental health | Article

Bipolar disorder not linked to increased age-related declines in cognition


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from a Swiss study of elderly patients with bipolar disorder (BD) suggest that they do not have greater age-related declines in cognition compared with their mentally healthy counterparts.

Previous studies of patients with BD have suggested the presence of cognitive deficits and subtle magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) changes in limbic areas, observe Christophe Delaloye (University Hospitals of Geneva) and colleagues in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But they add: "Whether or not cognitive and MRI changes represent stable attributes of BD or evolve with time is still matter of debate."

To investigate further, the team studied 22 elderly patients with BD who were aged an average of 68 years and 22 age-, gender-, and education-matched controls without a psychiatric disorder.

All of the participants were assessed for working memory, episodic memory (cued recall 48 items), processing speed (simple reaction time test), and executive functions at baseline and after 2 years.

They also underwent MRI scans at both time points to assess changes in gray and white matter volume during the study period.

The researchers found that BD patients had significantly poorer processing speed than controls at baseline, with reaction times of 350.00 versus 276.90 ms, and after 2 years, at 357.63 versus 287.50 ms.

They also had poorer episodic memory than controls at baseline, with cued recall scores of 24.00 versus 29.60, and after 2 years, with scores of 25.67 versus 28.47.

However, there were no significant differences between the groups regarding the extent of cognitive changes during the 2-year period.

There were also no significant differences between the groups in gray matter volume at baseline, or in longitudinal changes in gray or white matter volume during the 2-year period.

Delaloye and colleagues conclude: "The lack of distinction between BD patients and controls with respect to the 2-year changes in gray/white matter and cognition is internally consistent and supports the notion that BD does not have a significant adverse impact on cognitive and brain aging.

"From this point of view, the present results clearly convey a message of hope for patients suffering from BD."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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