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16-09-2013 | Mental health | Article

Prospective memory fails bipolar patients


Free abstract

medwireNews: Prospective memory may be a useful rehabilitation target for helping patients with bipolar disorder to function successfully in the community, a study suggests.

The researchers found that prospective memory – the ability to plan to do something and later remember to carry it out – was impaired in bipolar disorder patients and was significantly associated with their community living skills.

Raymond Au (United Christian Hospital, Hong Kong, China) and team note that research into prospective memory in bipolar disorder is in its early stages, and say their study “can be considered as a first step.”

The 76 bipolar disorder patients in the study had significantly poorer scores on the Cambridge Prospective Memory Test than 44 age-, gender-, and education-matched controls, at 24.6 versus 29.6 points. The patients were clinically stable at the time of testing.

Retrospective memory was also worse in patients than controls, with scores of 5.5 versus 7.2 on the Rivermead Behavioral Memory Test. But the differences in prospective memory remained significant even after accounting for retrospective memory and other sociodemographic and clinical variables.

Prospective memory did not predict scores on the self-care subscale of the Functional Needs Assessment scale, but was significantly associated with scores on the community living subscale, such that poorer prospective memory predicted poorer community living skills.

Further analysis showed that the association with community living skills was specific to time-based prospective memory, which requires remembering to do preplanned actions at specific times, rather than event-based prospective memory, in which specific events trigger the person to perform a preplanned action.

Both time- and event-based prospective memory were impaired in patients versus controls, however, with respective Cambridge Prospective Memory Test subscale scores of 11.0 versus 14.6, and 13.7 versus 15.0.

Writing in Bipolar Disorders, Au and colleagues note that community living skills are “only one aspect of functioning in the community.”

They recommend research into the effects of prospective memory on other aspects of community living, such as occupation, activities of daily living, medication adherence, and quality of life.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Eleanor McDermid, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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