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J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2009 Winter;21(1):59-67. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.21.1.59.

Neuropsychological evidence of impaired cognitive empathy in euthymic bipolar disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.


The empathic abilities have never been examined in bipolar disorder patients, despite frequent observations of impaired social behavior. To examine the neuropsychological processes that underlie the affective and cognitive empathic ability in bipolar disorder, the authors compared affective and cognitive empathic abilities, as well as theory of mind and executive functions, of euthymic bipolar disorder patients and healthy comparison subjects. Significant deficits in cognitive empathy and theory of mind were observed, while affective empathy was elevated in bipolar disorder. Patients showed impaired cognitive flexibility (shifting and reversal learning) but intact planning behavior. Impaired cognitive empathy was related with performance in neurocognitive tasks of cognitive flexibility, suggesting that prefrontal cortical dysfunction may account for impaired cognitive empathy in bipolar disorder.

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