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Bipolar Disord. 2012 Nov;14(7):764-79. doi: 10.1111/bdi.12007. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Impaired sustained attention in euthymic bipolar disorder patients and non-affected relatives: an fMRI study.

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Department of Neuroscience and Imaging, University of Chieti, Chieti, Italy.



Behavioral deficits in sustained attention have been reported during both acute and euthymic phases of type I bipolar disorder (BD-I) and also in non-affected relatives of bipolar disorder (BD) patients. In particular, selective failure in target recognition was proposed as a potential trait marker for BD, but there are few studies exploring the neural correlates. The aim of the present study was to analyze the behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) response of euthymic BD-I patients and non-affected relatives during a sustained attention task.


Twenty-four euthymic BD-I patients, 22 non-affected first-degree relatives of BD-I subjects, and 24 matched controls underwent a continuous performance test (CPT) with two levels of difficulty during event-related fMRI scanning.


Both patients and relatives showed a lower accuracy in target detection when compared to controls. The fMRI data analysis revealed between-group differences in several brain regions involved in sustained attention. During error in target recognition, both patients and relatives showed a larger activation in the bilateral insula and the posterior part of the middle cingulate cortex. By contrast, during correct target response, only patients failed to activate the right insula, whereas relatives showed an increased activation of the left insula and bilateral inferior parietal lobule - limited to the higher attention load - and an augmented deactivation of the posterior cingulate/retrosplenial cortex.


A selective impairment in target recognition during a CPT was behaviorally and functionally detectable in both euthymic BD-I patients and non-affected first-degree relatives, suggesting that specific sustained attention deficits may be a potential trait marker for BD-I.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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