C-reactive protein is associated with cognitive performance in a large cohort of euthymic patients with bipolar disorder

Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 19. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0591-1. Online ahead of print.


Data support the notion that 40-60% of patients with bipolar disorder (BD) have neurocognitive deficits. It is increasingly accepted that functioning in BD is negatively impacted by these deficits, yet they have not been a successful target for treatment. The biomarkers that predict cognitive deficits in BD are largely unknown, however recent evidence suggests that inflammation may be associated with poorer cognitive outcomes in BD. We measured C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of systemic inflammation and risk of inflammatory disease, in 222 euthymic BD patients and 52 healthy controls. Within the patient sample, using multivariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVA) we compared cognitive performance of those with high CRP (≥5 mg/L) versus the remaining subjects (<5 mg/L) on a battery of cognitive tests. We evaluated relationships with several other relevant clinical features. We also examined the role of CRP in cognitive decline using a proxy cognitive decline metric, defined as the difference between premorbid and current IQ estimates, in a logistic regression analysis. Approximately 80% of our sample were BD-I, and the remainder were BD-II and 42.6% of our sample had a history of psychosis. We found a statistically significant effect of CRP on cognitive performance on a broad range of tests; participants with CRP ≥ 5 mg/L had worse performance on several measures of executive functioning, MATRICS processing speed and MATRICS reasoning and problem solving relative to those with lower CRP. We also identified CRP as a significant positive predictor of proxy cognitive decline. Our results indicate that elevated CRP is associated with a broad cognitive dysfunction in affectively remitted BD patients. These results may point to a subgroup of patients who might benefit from treatments to reduce inflammation.