Cognitive impairment has been well documented in bipolar disorder. However, specific aspects of cognition such as emotional memory have not been examined.
To investigate episodic emotional memory in bipolar disorder, as indicated by performance on an amygdala-related cognitive task.
Twenty euthymic patients with bipolar disorder and 20 matched controls were recruited. Participants were shown a slide show of an emotionally neutral story, or a closely matched emotionally arousing story. One week later, participants were assessed on a memory-recall test.
In contrast with the pattern observed in controls, patients with bipolar disorder had no enhancement of memory for the emotional content of the story (F=14.7, d.f.=1.36, P < 0.001). The subjective perception of the emotional impact of the emotional condition was significantly different from that of the neutral condition in controls but not in people with bipolar disorder.
Our data suggest that the physiological pattern of enhanced memory retrieval for emotionally bound information is blunted in bipolar disorder.