BACKGROUND: Persistent cognitive deficits are prevalent in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) and unipolar disorder (UD), but treatments effectively targeting cognition in these mood disorders are lacking. This is partly due to poor insight into the neuronal underpinnings of cognitive deficits.
METHODS: The aim of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to investigate the neuronal underpinnings of working memory (WM)-related deficits in somatically healthy, remitted patients with BD or UD (n = 66) with cognitive and functional impairments compared to 38 healthy controls (HC). The participants underwent neuropsychological testing and fMRI, while performing a visuospatial and a verbal N-back WM paradigm.
RESULTS: Relative to HC, patients exhibited hypo-activity across dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as frontal and parietal nodes of the cognitive control network (CCN) and hyper-activity in left orbitofrontal cortex within the default mode network (DMN) during both visuospatial and verbal WM performance. Verbal WM-related response in the left posterior superior frontal gyrus (SFG) within CCN was lower in patients and correlated positively with out-of-scanner executive function performance across all participants.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that cognitive impairments across BD and UD are associated with insufficient recruitment of task-relevant regions in the CCN and down-regulation of task-irrelevant orbitofrontal activity within the DMN during task performance. Specifically, a lower recruitment of the left posterior SFG within CCN during verbal WM was associated with lower cognitive performance.