Neuropsychological characteristics of child and adolescent offspring of patients with bipolar disorder

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Abstract

Background:

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe mental disorder with a strong genetic component. The assessment of child and adolescent offspring of patients diagnosed with BD (BDoff) provides an opportunity to investigate vulnerability factors and the first abnormalities associated with the disorder. Previous literature in child and adolescent BDoff is scarce and controversial. However, some studies concur in identifying significant impairment in executive functions, memory and attention. The present study aims to compare global neuropsychological characteristics of child and adolescent offspring of patients with bipolar disorder with a group of offspring of parents with no history of psychotic disorder, and to assess the influence of psychopathology on neuropsychological performance.

Methods:

This research was part of The Bipolar and Schizophrenia Young Offspring Study (BASYS). A group of BDoff (N = 90) and a group of offspring of parents with no history of psychotic disorder (CC) (N = 107) were assessed with a complete neuropsychological battery. Intellectual quotient, working memory, processing speed, verbal memory and learning, visual memory, attention and executive functions were included in the cognitive assessment.

Results:

BDoff showed significantly worse performance in processing speed and immediate recall of visual memory relative to CC. When the presence of any lifetime psychopathology was analysed, the results showed that belonging to the BDoff group was the main explicative factor for the scores obtained in both processing speed and visual memory immediate recall, regardless of the presence of psychopathology.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that processing speed and visual memory should be taken into consideration in future research on vulnerability markers of BD.

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