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Paying attention to meaning in Bipolar Disorder

Mood state and modes of processing meaning

A collaboration led by Claire Lomax and Dominic Lam has recently extended some of our earlier research on an ICS based account of Bipolar Disorder

Few theoretical proposals attempt to account for the variation in processing across different affective states of bipolar disorder (BD). Barnard (2004) extended a multi-level theory of cognition, the Interacting Cognitive Subsystems (ICS), to hypothesise that positive mood state taps into an implicational level of processing, which may be more extreme in states of mania. Thirty individuals with BD and thirty normal controls were tested in euthymic mood state and then in induced positive mood state using the Question-Answer task (Palmer & Barnard 2003). Test questions referenced a plausible inference based on natural schemas for everyday events and were designed to assess the extent to which discrepant meanings were actively scrutinised. Although the present study did not find the groups differed in their ability to detect discrepant meanings in the questions, it did find that the BD group was significantly more likely than the control group to answer questions consistent with a schema-based inference, both before and after mood induction. This may reflect a general cognitive bias, that individuals with euthymic BD have a tendency to operate at a more abstract or implicational level of representation.

Lomax, C., Lam, D. & Barnard, P. J. (2009) Cognitive processing in Bipolar Disorder conceptualised using the Interacting Cognitive Subsystems (ICS) model., Psychological Medicine, 39(5), 773-783.

Palmer, A. & Barnard, P.J. (2003) The immediate processing of schema discrepant meaning in Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar Disorders, Supplement no 1, Vol 5, p73Poster, 5th International Conference on Bipolar Disorders, June 2003

Barnard, P. (2004) Bridging between basic science and clinical practice. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42(9), 977-1000.

related project work is reported in

Delduca, C.M., Jones, S.H. & Barnard, P.J. (2010) A preliminary investigation of the effect of hypomanic personality on the specificity and speed of autobiographical memory recall, Memory, 18(1), 12-26