Cognition and disability in bipolar disorder: Lessons from schizophrenia research

Philip D. Harvey, Aliza P. Wingo, Katherine E. Burdick, Ross J. Baldessarini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Background: Cognitive and functional impairments occur in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BPD), although they are usually less severe and far less studied than in schizophrenia. There may be value in applying approaches developed in schizophrenia research to study cognitive functioning among BPD patients in areas including performance-based disability assessment, cognitive remediation treatments, enhancement of the accuracy of real-world functioning, and studying cognition and disability in relatives. Methods: We reviewed current research on cognitive and functional disability in BPD, noted areas of similarity and discrepancy to research on schizophrenia, and highlighted methods and approaches used to study schizophrenia that can be applied to study unmet needs of BPD patients. Results: Research in schizophrenia increasingly separates potential functional capacity from real-world outcome status, and has assessed contributions of cognitive impairment and other illness factors to functional outcomes. For schizophrenia, various behavioral and pharmacological treatments aimed at cognitive enhancement have been attempted, with moderate success, compared to rare studies of treatment effects on cognitive impairment in BPD. Very little research has been performed in the occurrence of cognitive impairments in first-degree relatives of people with BPD, despite evidence that cognitive impairments may be stable traits across symptomatic status in people with BPD. Conclusions: Research and treatment approaches developed for schizophrenia can productively be applied to the study and treatment of patients diagnosed with BPD, notably including studies of the characteristics of and treatments for functional impairment related to cognitive deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-375
Number of pages12
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cognition
  • Disability
  • Schizophrenia
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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