Reward sensitivity and anger in euthymic bipolar disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2014 Jan 30;215(1):95-100. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.10.028. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


According to the hypersensitive behavioral approach system (BAS) model of bipolar disorder (BP), hypersensitivity of the BAS is a trait that should be present even in the euthymic state. This would be expected to result in increased anger and reward sensitivity, both of which are related to the approach system. This study examined these predictions through the use of tasks that assess different aspects of the BAS: reward sensitivity, anger and impulsivity. These characteristics were assessed using the probabilistic classification task (PCT), ultimatum game (UG) and single key impulsivity paradigm (SKIP), respectively. Participants were euthymic adult bipolar disorder patients (BP; N=40) and healthy controls (HC; N=41). In the UG, all participants showed the standard pattern of rejecting overtly unfair offers and accepting clearly fair offers; however, BPs rejected more of the moderately unfair offers than did HCs. BP and HC participants did not differ on their ability to learn, but did show different patterns of learning from reward and punishment. Learning for reward and punishment were negatively correlated in the BP group, suggesting that individuals could learn well either from reward or punishment, but not both. No correlation was found between these forms of learning in the HC group. BP patients show signs of their disorder even in the euthymic state, as seen by the dysbalance between reward and punishment learning and their residual anger in the UG.

Keywords: BAS hypersensitivity model ultimatum game; Bipolar; Reinforcement sensitivity theory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anger*
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Punishment
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult