Emotional cognition subgroups in mood disorders: Associations with familial risk

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2021 Oct:51:71-83. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2021.05.003. Epub 2021 Jun 4.


Patients with mood disorders show heterogeneity in non-emotional cognition. However, it is unclear whether emotional cognition (EC) is characterised by similar heterogeneity. We aimed to investigate the heterogeneity in EC among remitted patients with mood disorders and explore its association with familial risk. Data from 269 partially or fully remitted patients with mood disorders, 87 of their unaffected relatives (UR) and 203 healthy controls (HC) were pooled from two cohort studies. Hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted using the EC data from patients. UR were categorised into groups consistent with their affected relatives' cluster assignment. Clusters were compared to HC on EC, non-emotional cognition, clinical characteristics and functioning. We identified three clusters: an 'emotionally preserved' (57%), an 'emotionally blunted' (26%) and an 'emotionally volatile' cluster (17%). 'Emotionally blunted' and 'emotionally volatile' patients also presented more deficits in non-emotional cognition (global cognition read z=-0.3 and -0.5 respectively). Relatives of 'emotionally preserved' patients were more successful at dampening negative emotions (p=.01, d=0.39, 95% CI [-0.76,-0.09]), whereas UR of 'emotionally impaired' patients underperformed in verbal fluency (p=.03, d=0.46, 95% CI [.03, 0.68]) compared to HC. The existence of impaired EC groups in remitted mood disorder highlights a need to screen for and treat EC in mood disorders. Improved ability to dampen emotions in UR of 'emotionally preserved' patients may reflect a resilience marker while impaired verbal fluency in UR of 'emotionally impaired' patients may reflect distinct genetic risk profiles in these EC subgroups.

Keywords: Cluster-analysis; Emotional cognition; Emotional processing; Emotional regulation; Mood disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder* / psychology
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders*