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J Affect Disord. 2016 Jan 15;190:34-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.10.008. Epub 2015 Oct 14.

Comparative neurocognitive effects of lithium and anticonvulsants in long-term stable bipolar patients.

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Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital, Valencia, Spain.
Health Research Institute La Fe, Valencia, Spain; University of Valencia, Spain. Electronic address:
Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital, Valencia, Spain; University of Valencia, Spain; CIBERESP, Spain.



The aim of choosing a mood-stabilizing drug (lithium or anticonvulsants) or a combination of them with minimal neurocognitive effects is to stimulate the development of criteria for a therapeutic adequacy, particularly in Bipolar Disorder (BD) patients who are clinically stabilized.


Three groups of BD patients were established according to their treatment: (i) lithium monotherapy (n=29); (ii) lithium together with one or more anticonvulsants (n=28); and (iii) one or more anticonvulsants (n=16). A group of healthy controls served as the control (n=25). The following tests were applied: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Trail Making Test, Wechsler Memory Scale, Rey Complex Figure Test, Stroop color-word test, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Tower of Hanoi, Frontal Assessment Battery, and Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test.


Relative to healthy controls, BD patients showed the following: (i) those on lithium monotherapy, but not other BD groups, had preserved short-term auditory memory, long-term memory, and attention; (ii) those who took only anticonvulsants showed worse findings in short-term visual memory, working memory, and several executive functions; and (iii) all BD patients showed worse performance in processing speed, resistance to interference, and emotion recognition.


Medication alone cannot explain why all BD patients showed common cognitive deficits despite different pharmacological treatment.


The impairment on some executive functions and emotion recognition is an inherent trait in BD patients, regardless of their pharmacological treatment. However, while memory, attention, and most of the executive functions are preserved in long-term stable BD patients, these cognitive functions are impaired in those who take anticonvulsants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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