Verbal fluency in bipolar disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Affect Disord, Volume 207, p.359-366 (2017)


<p><b>BACKGROUND: </b>One of the main features of bipolar disorder (BD), besides mood dysregulation, is an alteration of the structure of language. Bipolar patients present changes in semantic contents, impaired verbal associations, abnormal prosody and abnormal speed of language highlighted with various experimental tasks. Verbal fluency tasks are widely used to assess the abilities of bipolar patients to retrieve and produce verbal material from the lexico-semantic memory. Studies using these tasks have however yielded discrepant results. The aim of this study was thus to determine the extent of the verbal fluency impairment in BD patients and to evaluate if the deficits are affected by the type of task or by mood states.</p><p><b>METHODS: </b>A systematic literature search was conducted in MEDLINE, EBSCOHost and Google Scholar and relevant data were submitted to a meta-analysis.</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>Thirty-nine studies were retained providing data for 52 independent groups of BD patients. The overall meta-analysis revealed a moderate verbal fluency impairment in BD compared to healthy controls (effect size d=0.61). Comparisons between mood states showed significant differences only between euthymic and manic patients and only on category fluency performances.</p><p><b>LIMITATIONS: </b>This review is limited by the heterogeneity between studies for the characteristics of BD populations. Also, few of the retained studies examined depressive or mixed episodes.</p><p><b>CONCLUSIONS: </b>This work confirms that BD patients present with moderate verbal fluency impairments, and underlines the specific effect of mood state on category fluency. This emphasizes the need to distinguish semantic from phonological processes in verbal fluency assessments in BD.</p>

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