Background: Bipolar disorder is associated with functional and structural abnormalities in the brain circuits involved in processing emotional stimuli. Although impairments of cognitive function have been found to persist in bipolar patients during periods of euthymic mood, it is not known whether abnormalities in emotional processing also occur during these periods of recovery.
Methods: The present investigation assessed the ability of euthymic patients with bipolar disorder to recognize different facial expressions of emotion, compared with matched controls. A nonemotional facial categorization task was used to control for possible nonspecific differences in perception or attention.
Results: In contrast to the small impairments seen in the nonemotional categorization task, patients with bipolar disorder showed a robust facilitation in the discrimination of disgusted facial expressions. The recognition of other basic negative and positive emotions was unchanged.
Conclusions: The present results suggest a selective facilitation of the processes involved in recognizing facial expressions of disgust in patients with bipolar disorder. This difference in perception may be relevant to the decreased self-esteem and social functioning that have been associated with the euthymic phase of this disorder.
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Accepted: July 11, 2001
Received in revised form: July 6, 2001
Received: March 20, 2001
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