From the Journals

Emotional processing of scenes in bipolar I appears intact

New findings contradict previous studies on processing of faces in bipolar



Differences in self-reported and EEG-measured responses to emotional scenes between patients with bipolar I disorder with and without a history of psychosis, and healthy controls are negligible, results of a cross-sectional study suggest.

“While prior research supports abnormalities in the emotional face response, this study suggests these neural and behavior differences do not fully generalize to scenes, indicating that nonsocial emotional responding may be intact in these patients,” reported Rebekah L. Trotti and colleagues.

The investigators conducted a multisite study among 130 participants with bipolar and a history of psychosis, 75 with bipolar and no history of psychosis, and 181 healthy controls. Although the investigators had hypothesized that, in keeping with findings from face-processing studies, emotional responses would be reduced in patients with bipolar I disorder, they found no differences on EEG in early posterior negativity and only small differences for late positive potential between the groups. The groups were presented with the same 60 scenes that were unpleasant, neutral, or pleasant. The study was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Participants rated each scene according to the Self-Assessment Manikin after the respective EEG readings were taken. No significant statistical differences were seen on these ratings between groups, reported Ms. Trotti, a graduate student in the behavioral and brain sciences program at the University of Georgia, Athens, and colleagues.

The investigators also assessed whether participants had psychosis and looked at medications they were taking. However, those analyses also showed no statistically significant differences between participants with bipolar I and a history of psychosis, those with bipolar and no history of psychosis, and healthy controls in the processing of emotional scenes. Ms. Trotti and colleagues noted that other ways of differentiating subtypes in this heterogeneous disorder, such as those based on biomarkers and brain structure rather than those laid out by the DSM, might yield the differences in neural activity they had expected.

“Future research on this topic should focus on neurocognitive subtypes of mood and psychotic disorders, as well as other domains of emotional responding and behavior,” Ms. Trotti and colleagues wrote.

SOURCE: Trotti RL et al. J Psychiatr Res. 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.10.005.

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