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December 11, 2007

Impaired Emotional Perception in Bipolar Patients

We recently covered a study which found that children suffering from bipolar disorder are more likely to misread facial expressions and experience certain moods such as irritability and excessive happiness. Now a new study, published in last month's issue of The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, finds that the adults suffering from bipolar disorder are also prone to impaired emotional perception.

For the study, 19 patients suffering from bipolar disorder I and in remission were compared to 22 healthy individuals (both groups were matched for age, gender, education, etc.) . The participants were all given an Affective Prosody Test (APT). Taking this test usually means that participants listen to tapes where sentences expressing certain emotions are read (for example, the emotions: happy, sad, angry, etc.), and then asked to specify the emotions they believe were expressed. For this study, the researchers found that bipolar patients had "significantly lower scores on the APT" than did the other participants. In particular, female participants with bipolar disorder showed specific impairment in perceiving "certain emotions" for example: surprise and fear.

The sample size of this study was small, thus if it is repeated, the future results may be more generalizable. Nevertheless, the issue of impaired emotional perception for bipolar patients is an important one, not just because it enables outsiders to better understand the experience of bipolar sufferers but also because it may lead to newer, more effective treatments.

Impaired Perception of Affective Prosody in Remitted Patients With Bipolar Disorder Bozikas et al. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci.2007; 19: 436-440

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