Attention difficulties and impulsivity in euthymic outpatients with bipolar disorder  

Novak T., Šprah L.
First author's affiliation: Sociomedical Institute SASA, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Bipolar affective disorder is characterised by impulse disregulation and cognitive disturbances. Although numerous studies agree that bipolar patients show extensive attention deficits and increased impulsivity, it is still unclear to which extent these problems persist across different mood states, including euthymia. In the present study, we aimed to examine selective attention functioning, emotional attentional bias and impulsivity in the group of euthymic outpatients with bipolar disorder. Thirty outpatients with euthymic bipolar disorder without current depression or mania episode were age- and education-matched with 30 healthy individuals. Participants completed the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11 version) which is subfactored into attentional, motor, and nonplanning impulsiveness, as well as the computer administered colour-word and emotional Stroop task. Relative to the controls, euthymic bipolar outpatients displayed higher levels of impulsiveness and demonstrated a generally worse performance on colour–word and emotional Stroop task regarding longer reaction times and less accurate responding. The between-group differences were most pronounced in the interference condition of the colour-word task and in neutral and negative words condition of the emotional task. Within bipolar group, we found negative correlations between impulsiveness dimensions and performance on colour-word task. To conclude, euthymic bipolar outpatients in our study demonstrated a relatively marked impairment in aspects of impulse regulation and selective attention functioning. Attentional bias was discovered with neutral and negative stimuli and problems with interference control were revealed. However, a causal role between impulsivity and attention has yet to be established.