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02-08-2011 | Mental health | Article

Mental imagery linked to mood stability in bipolar disorder patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: Mental imagery may be associated with mood stability in patients with bipolar disorder, say UK researchers.

Writing in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, Emily Holmes and team from the University of Oxford explain: "Cognitive processes may contribute to the disturbances in mood seen in bipolar disorder and, if significant, may present targets for treatment via cognitive behaviour therapy."

They add: "While much research to date has focussed on the role of verbal cognition in bipolar disorder, the role of cognition in the form of mental imagery has been relatively neglected."

To address this, the researchers studied 23 patients with bipolar disorder and 23 age- and gender-matched mentally healthy individuals from the same geographic area.

Of the patients with bipolar disorder, 11 were in a stable mood at the time of study and 12 were in an unstable mood, as assessed using the self-report Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology and the Self-Rating Scale for Mania.

All of the participants were assessed for general mental imagery in everyday life using the Spontaneous Use of Imagery Scale, and verbal versus imagery processing style using two visual analogue scales. Mental imagery of future events was assessed using the Prospective Imagery Task and the Impact of Future Events Scale, and the Homograph Interpretation Task was used to assess imagery-based interpretation bias.

The researchers found that, compared with controls, patients with bipolar disorder had significantly greater general mental imagery use, and higher levels of imagery processing together with lower verbal processing levels.

Bipolar disorder patients also had more vivid imagery of future events, higher levels of intrusive prospective imagery, and more extreme imagery-based interpretation bias than controls.

Among the patients with bipolar disorder, those in an unstable mood had higher levels of intrusive prospective imagery than those in a stable mood, and this was significantly and positively associated with anxiety and depression levels.

Holmes and team conclude: "Further investigation of imagery in bipolar disorder appears warranted as it may highlight processes that contribute to mood instability with relevance for cognitive behaviour therapy."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Mark Cowen

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