Background. Euthymic bipolar-I disorder (BP I) patients and their siblings have shown impairments in verbal learning and memory functions compared with controls, suggesting that these impairments may be genetic in origin. Reduced information-processing speed has been associated with impaired memory in the elderly, and recently in schizophrenia. The authors compared verbal learning and memory functioning in twins with BP I and co-twins to control twins, and examined whether the observed deficits are related to information-processing speed.
Method. Finnish Medical and Population Registers and Twin Cohorts were used to identify the BP I and control twins. Neuropsychological tests assessing verbal learning and memory, working memory, facial recognition, visual memory, and information-processing speed were administered to 26 BP I twins, 19 non-bipolar co-twins, and 114 controls. Group differences were analyzed by generalized estimation equation modeling.
Results. BP I patients, but not co-twins, showed impairments in all memory tests compared with controls. Female co-twins showed impairment in verbal learning and memory. Information-processing speed had a significant effect on encoding and learning efficiency.
Conclusions. This study showed for the first time that information-processing speed is related to memory functioning and verbal learning in BP I in a population-based, representative and euthymic sample. Furthermore, the data support the view that defects in verbal memory may be related to the genetic factors predisposing to BP I in females.