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Background: In bipolar disorder (BD), little is known about how deficits in neurocognitive functions such as decision-making are related to phase of illness. We predicted that manic, depressed, and euthymic bipolar patients (BPs) would display impaired decision-making, and we tested whether clinical characteristics could predict patients' decision-making performance. Methods: Subjects (N = 317; age range: 1865 years) including 167 BPs (45 manic and 32 depressed inpatients, and 90 euthymic outpatients) and 150 age-, IQ-, and gender-matched healthy control (HC) participants, were included within three university psychiatric hospitals using a cross-sectional design. The relationship between predictor variables and decision-making was assessed by one-step multivariate analysis. The main outcome measures were overall decision-making ability on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) and an index of sensitivity to punishment frequency. Results: Manic, depressed, and euthymic BPs selected significantly more cards from the risky decks than HCs (p <.001, p <.01, and p <.05, respectively), with no significant differences between the three BD groups. However, like HCs, BPs preferred decks that yielded infrequent penalties over those yielding frequent penalties. In multivariate analysis, decision-making impairment was significantly (p <.001) predicted by low level of education, high depressive scores, family history of BD, use of benzodiazepines, and nonuse of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants. Conclusions: BPs have a trait-related impairment in decision-making that does not vary across illness phase. However, some subtle differences between the BD groups in the individual deck analyses may point to subtle state influences on reinforcement mechanisms, in addition to a more fundamental trait impairment in risk-sensitive decision making. © 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Original publication




Journal article


Biological Psychiatry

Publication Date





357 - 365