Pre-attentive information processing and impulsivity in bipolar disorder

J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Dec;47(12):1917-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.08.018. Epub 2013 Sep 3.


Early responses to stimuli can be measured by sensory evoked potentials (EP) using repeated identical stimuli, S1 and S2. Response to S1 may represent efficient stimulus detection, while suppression of response to S2 may represent inhibition. Early responses to stimuli may be related to impulsivity. We compared EP reflecting stimulus detection and inhibition in bipolar disorder and healthy controls, and investigated relationships to impulsivity. Subjects were 48 healthy controls without family histories of mood disorder and 48 with bipolar disorder. EP were measured as latencies and amplitudes for auditory P50 (pre-attentional), N100 (initial direction of attention) and P200 (initial conscious awareness), using a paired-click paradigm, with identical stimuli 0.5 s apart. Impulsivity was measured by questionnaire and by laboratory tests for inability to suppress responses to stimuli or to delay response for a reward. Analyses used general linear models. S1 amplitudes for P50, N100, and P200, and gating of N100 and P200, were lower in bipolar disorder than in controls. P50 S1 amplitude correlated with accurate laboratory-task responding, and S2 amplitude correlated with impulsive task performance and fast reaction times, in bipolar disorder. N100 and P200 EP did not correlate with impulsivity. These findings were independent of symptoms, treatment, or substance-use history. EPs were not related to questionnaire-measured or reward-based impulsivity. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by reduced pre-attentional and early attentional stimulus registration relative to controls. Within bipolar disorder, rapid-response impulsivity correlates with impaired pre-attentional response suppression. These results imply specific relationships between ERP-measured response inhibition and rapid-response impulsivity.

Keywords: Attention; Bipolar disorder; Event-related potentials; Impulsive behavior; Sensory gating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications*
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / drug therapy
  • Impulsive Behavior / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward
  • Sensory Gating / drug effects
  • Sensory Gating / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents