Assessment of subjective and objective cognitive function in bipolar disorder: Correlations, predictors and the relation to psychosocial function

Demant KM, Vinberg M, Kessing LV, Miskowiak KW

Psychiatry Res. 2015 Jun 3. pii: S0165-1781(15)00291-7.


Cognitive dysfunction is prevalent in bipolar disorder (BD). However, the evidence regarding the association between subjective cognitive complaints, objective cognitive performance and psychosocial function is sparse and inconsistent. Seventy seven patients with bipolar disorder who presented cognitive complaints underwent assessment of objective and subjective cognitive function and psychosocial functioning as part of their participation in two clinical trials. We investigated the association between global and domain-specific objective and subjective cognitive function and between global cognitive function and psychosocial function. We also identified clinical variables that predicted objective and subjective cognitive function and psychosocial functioning. There was a correlation between global subjective and objective measures of cognitive dysfunction but not within the individual cognitive domains. However, the correlation was weak, suggesting that cognitive complaints are not an assay of cognition per se. Self-rated psychosocial difficulties were associated with subjective (but not objective) cognitive impairment and both subjective cognitive and psychosocial difficulties were predicted by depressive symptoms. Our findings indicate that adequate assessment of cognition in the clinical treatment of BD and in drug trials targeting cognition requires implementation of not only subjective measures but also of objective neuropsychological tests.

Is there an association between subjective and objective measures of cognitive function in patients with affective disorders?

Svendsen AM, Kessing LV, Munkholm K, Vinberg M, Miskowiak KW

Nord J Psychiatry. 2012 Sep;66(4):248-53.


BACKGROUND: Patients with affective disorders experience cognitive dysfunction in addition to their affective symptoms. The relationship between subjectively experienced and objectively measured cognitive function is controversial with several studies reporting no correlation between subjective and objective deficits.

AIMS: To investigate whether there is a correlation between subjectively reported and objectively measured cognitive function in patients with affective disorders, and whether subjective complaints predict objectively measured dysfunction.

METHODS: The study included 45 participants; 15 with bipolar disorder (BD), 15 with unipolar disorder (UD) and 15 healthy individuals. Participants’ subjectively experienced cognitive function and objective cognitive function were assessed with the Massachusetts General Hospital Cognitive and Physical Functioning Questionnaire (CPFQ) and the Screen for Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatry (SCIP), respectively. Patients were rated for affective symptoms with Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS).

RESULTS: Patients demonstrated subjective and objective cognitive dysfunction relative to controls (P-values ≤ 0.01) but there were no differences between patient groups (P > 0.1). We found no correlation between subjectively experienced and objectively measured cognitive dysfunction in BD (P = 0.7), and a non-significant trend towards a correlation in UD (P = 0.06), which disappeared when controlling for gender (P = 0.1).

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that it is not necessarily patients who have cognitive complaints that are most impaired. If confirmed in a larger sample, our findings suggest that neuropsychological assessment is warranted to elucidate the potential role of cognitive dysfunction in patients’ everyday lives and to inform treatment strategies targeting these difficulties.