Sources of declarative memory impairment in bipolar disorder: Mnemonic processes and clinical features

Carrie E. Bearden, David C. Glahn, E. Serap Monkul, Jennifer Barrett, Pablo Najt, Simerjit Kaur, Marsal Sanches, Veronica Villarreal, Charles Bowden, Jair C. Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Background: There is mounting evidence that declarative memory processes are impaired in patients with bipolar disorder. However, predictors of the observed impairment are not well understood. This study seeks to: (i) better characterize the nature of declarative memory impairment in bipolar disorder, and (ii) determine the relationship between clinical variables and memory function in bipolar disorder. Methods: 49 adult patients with bipolar disorder in varying mood states and 38 demographically matched healthy participants completed a comprehensive neurocognitive battery assessing general cognitive functioning, processing speed, and declarative memory. The California verbal learning test was used to characterize learning and memory functions. Results: Although patients with bipolar disorder utilized a similar semantic clustering strategy to healthy controls, they recalled and recognized significantly fewer words than controls, suggesting impaired encoding of verbal information. In contrast, lack of rapid forgetting suggests relative absence of a storage deficit in bipolar patients. While severity of mood symptomatology and illness duration were not associated with task performance, gender and family history significantly affected memory function. Conclusions: Results suggest that declarative memory impairments in bipolar patients: (1) are consistent with deficits in learning, but do not appear to be related to different organizational strategies during learning, and (2) do not appear to be secondary to clinical state, but rather may be associated with the underlying pathophysiology of the illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Clinical state
  • Cognition
  • Declarative memory
  • Gender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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