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Bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia (SZ) are characterized by neurocognitive and functional deficits with marked heterogeneity. It has been suggested that BD with a history of psychotic symptoms (BD-P) could constitute a phenotypically homogeneous subtype characterized by greater neurocognitive and functional impairments, or by a distinct trajectory of such deficits. The aim of this study was to compare the neurocognitive and functional course of euthymic BD-P, euthymic BD patients without a history of psychosis (BD-NP), stabilized patients with schizophrenia and healthy subjects, during a five-year follow-up.
Neurocognitive and psychosocial function was examined in 100 euthymic patients with BD (50 BD-P, 50 BD-NP), 50 stabilized patients with schizophrenia (SZ), and 51 healthy controls (HC) at baseline (T1), and after a 5-year follow-up (T2).
The course of both neurocognitive performance and functional outcome of patients with SZ and BD (BD-P and BD-NP) is stable. The profile of neurocognitive impairment of patients with SZ or BD (BD-P and BD-NP), is similar, with only quantitative differences circumscribed to certain domains, such as working memory. The subgroup of patients with BD-NP does not show functional deterioration.
We have not found evidence of progression in the neurocognitive or psychosocial impairment in any of the three groups of patients, although it cannot be dismissed the possibility of a subset of patients with a progressive course. Other longitudinal studies with larger samples and longer duration are necessary to confirm these findings.
The neurocognitive trajectory in bipolar disorder (BD) is variable, with controversial findings, and most evidence come from cross-sectional studies. We aimed to examine the course of neurocognitive functioning in a sample of euthymic BD patients in comparison with a control group during a 5-year follow-up.
Ninety-nine euthymic bipolar patients and 40 healthy controls were assessed using a comprehensive neurocognitive battery (six neurocognitive domains) at baseline (T1) and then at 5-year follow-up (T2) in a longitudinal study.
No evidence of a progression in neurocognitive dysfunction was found either in cognitive composite index or in any of the neurocognitive domains for the whole cohort. However, there was a negative correlation between number of manic episodes and hospitalisations due to manic episodes and change in neurocognitive composite index (NCI) during the follow-up. Moreover, patients with higher number of manic and hypomanic episodes have a greater decrease in NCI, working memory and visual memory. History of psychotic symptoms was not related to the trajectory of neurocognitive impairment.
Our results suggest that, although the progression of cognitive decline is not a general rule in BD, BD patients who have a greater number of manic or hypomanic episodes may constitute a subgroup characterised by the progression of neurocognitive impairment. Prevention of manic and hypomanic episodes could have a positive impact on the trajectory of cognitive function.
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