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23-12-2009 | Mental health | Article

Negative specific memory recall increased with hypomania risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Individuals at high risk for bipolar hypomania have increased access to negative specific memories, say UK researchers who suggest that encouraging positive memory recall may benefit bipolar disorder patients.

Previous studies have indicated that bipolar disorder patients recall more overgeneral than specific autobiographical memories, particularly during depressive episodes. It has also been hypothesized that the opposite pattern may occur during mania/hypomania.

To investigate further, Steven Jones, from Lancaster University, and colleagues studied 38 individuals, of whom 21 were categorized as at high risk and 17 as at low risk of hypomania on the Hypomanic Personality Scale (HPS). The participants were also administered the Internal States Scale (ISS) and the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT).

The team reports in the journal Memory that there were no demographic differences between high-risk and low-risk participants. However, high-risk individuals had significantly higher scores on the ISS subscales of perceived conflict and activation.

On the AMT, there were no significant differences between the overall number of memories recalled between high- and low-risk participants in response to cue words, and no differences in the number of pleasant memories recalled.

Interestingly, high-risk individuals recalled significantly more unpleasant specific, as opposed to general, memories in response to cue words than low-risk individuals, at 4.00 versus 3.21.

The team concludes: "By focusing on modifying the schema that are produced within each phase of bipolar disorder, more functional cognitive processes could be encouraged.

"For example, by promoting the retrieval of specific positive memories and theintegration of negative memories into the autobiographical knowledge base, a more adaptive focus of attention could be endorsed, which may help to prevent and reduce the severity of episodes."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2009

By Liam Davenport

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