Natural speech comprehension in bipolar disorders: an event-related brain potential study among manic patients

J Affect Disord. 2014 Apr:158:161-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.11.013. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Background: Thought and language disturbances are crucial clinical features in Bipolar Disorders (BD), and constitute a fundamental basis for social cognition. In BD, clinical manifestations such as disorganization and formal thought disorders may play a role in communication disturbances. However, only few studies have explored language disturbances in BD at a neurophysiological level. Two main Event-Related brain Potentials (ERPs) have been used in language comprehension research: the N400 component, elicited by incongruous word with the preceding semantic context, and the Late Positive Component (LPC), associated with non-specifically semantic and more general cognitive processes. Previous studies provided contradictory results regarding N400 in mood disorders, showing either preserved N400 in depression or dysthymia, or altered N400 in BD during semantic priming paradigm. The aim of our study was to explore N400 and LPC among patients with BD in natural speech conditions.

Methods: ERPs from 19 bipolar type I patients with manic or hypomanic symptomatology and 19 healthy controls were recorded. Participants were asked to listen to congruous and incongruous complete sentences and to judge the match between the final word and the sentence context. Behavioral results and ERPs data were analyzed.

Results: At the behavioral level, patients with BD show worst performances than healthy participants. At the electrophysiological level, our results show preserved N400 component in BD. LPC elicited under natural speech conditions shows preserved amplitude but delayed latency in difference waves.

Limitations: Small size of samples, absence of schizophrenic group and medication status.

Conclusions: In contrast with the only previous N400 study in BD that uses written semantic priming, our results show a preserved N400 component in ecological and natural speech conditions among patients with BD. Possible implications in terms of clinical specificity are discussed.

Keywords: Bipolar disorders; ERPs; LPC; N400; Natural connected speech; Semantic processing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Semantics
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult