Relational memory in psychotic bipolar disorder

Julia M. Sheffield, Lisa E. Williams, Neal Cohen, Stephan Heckers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Recent research has highlighted the phenotypic and genetic overlap of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Cognitive deficits in bipolar disorder parallel those seen in schizophrenia, particularly for bipolar disorder patients with a history of psychotic features. Here we explored whether relational memory deficits, which are prominent in schizophrenia, are also present in patients with psychotic bipolar disorder. Methods: We tested 25 patients with psychotic bipolar disorder on a relational memory paradigm previously employed to quantify deficits in schizophrenia. During the training, participants learned to associate a set of faces and background scenes. During the testing, participants viewed a single background overlaid by three trained faces and were asked to recall the matching face, which was either present (Match trials) or absent (Non-Match trials). Explicit recognition and eye-movement data were collected and compared to those for 28 schizophrenia patients and 27 healthy subjects from a previously published dataset. Results: Contrary to our prediction, we found psychotic bipolar disorder patients were less impaired in relational memory than schizophrenia subjects. Bipolar disorder subjects showed eye-movement behavior similar to healthy controls, whereas schizophrenia subjects were impaired relative to both groups. However, bipolar disorder patients with current delusions and/or hallucinations were more impaired than bipolar disorder patients not currently experiencing these symptoms. Conclusions: We found that patients with psychotic bipolar disorder had better relational memory performance than schizophrenia patients, indicating that a history of psychotic symptoms does not lead to a significant relational memory deficit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-546
Number of pages10
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Associative memory
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eye movements
  • Hippocampus
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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