Bipolar-ADHD comorbidity: screening for differences in neurocognition and virtual reality-based cognitive performance


OBJECTIVES: Identification of comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) is complicated by overlapping cognitive symptoms and methodological challenges. This cross-sectional study investigated whether virtual reality (VR)-based cognitive assessment that mimics daily life cognitive challenges can aid in the detection of sustained attention impairment in BD individuals with comorbid ADHD (BD + ADHD).

METHODS: Forty-nine fully or partially remitted outpatients with BD, of whom 14 (24%) had BD + ADHD, were assessed with the Cognition Assessment in Virtual Reality (CAVIR) test, including a sustained attention test that involves distractions, and the Screen for Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatry (SCIP). Patients were also rated for mood symptoms and functioning and completed questionnaires assessing subjective cognition and quality of life. Patients' cognitive impairment on the SCIP was estimated with reference to n = 100 demographically comparable healthy control participants.

RESULTS: BD + ADHD participants exhibited more pronounced performance deficits on the CAVIR sustained attention test (t(48) = 2.15, p = .037, d = .66). Notably, deficits on this test were proportional to self-reported daily life concentration difficulties in BD + ADHD individuals. Exploratory analyses revealed that BD + ADHD participants also displayed greater impairment on the SCIP working memory- and delayed verbal learning subtests and greater subjective cognitive complaints than BD patients without this comorbidity (p-levels < .001), but only the difference in subjective cognition survived correction for multiple comparisons (F(1,47) = 14.13, p = .005, np2 = 0.24).

CONCLUSION: Screening for deficits in sustained attention with an ecologically valid VR test involving distracting stimuli may be useful for identifying BD + ADHD individuals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • ADHD
  • Cognition
  • bipolar disorder
  • cognitive impairments
  • virtual reality


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