Effect of obesity on cognition in adults with and without a mood disorder: study design and methods

BMJ Open. 2016 Feb 29;6(2):e009347. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009347.


Introduction: Obesity is a common medical illness that is increasingly recognised as conferring risk of decline in cognitive performance, independent of other comorbid medical conditions. Individuals with mood disorders (bipolar disorder (BD) or major depressive disorder (MDD)) display an increased prevalence of both obesity and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, BD and MDD are associated with impairment in cognitive functioning across multiple domains. The independent contribution of obesity to cognitive decline in this population has not been explored. This study examines the impact of obesity on cognition by comparing neuropsychological performance in obese individuals, with or without a mood disorder before and after undergoing bariatric surgery.

Methods and analysis: This study compares measures of declarative memory, executive functioning and attention in obese individuals (body mass index >35 kg/m(2)) with BD or MDD, and 2 control populations (obese individuals without a psychiatric illness and healthy non-obese controls) prior to and following bariatric surgery. Participants (ages 18-60) receive a psychiatric diagnosis via the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV; SCID). Mood ratings, physical measurements, nutritional and health questionnaires are also administered. A standardised battery of neuropsychological tests aimed at establishing performance in areas of declarative memory, executive functioning and attention are administered. Warrington's Recognition Memory Task (RMT) and an N-Back Task are performed in a 3 T functional MRI to investigate patterns of neural activation during cognitive performance. Additionally, anatomical MRI data are obtained to investigate potential changes in neural structures. Baseline data will be analysed for between-group differences and later compared with postsurgical data to investigate cognitive change.

Ethics and dissemination: This study has been approved by the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (09-3254). Results will be available in peer-reviewed scientific publications and scientific meetings presentations, and released in lay form to media.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Attention
  • Bariatric Surgery
  • Cognition Disorders / complications
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / complications*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult