Working memory training in adolescents with pediatric bipolar disorder

Institution: University of Illinois, Chicago

Investigator(s): A. M. Passarotti, PhD, L. Laatsch, PhD, M.N. Pavuluri, MD, PhD

Program: Cogmed RM

Background & Aim: Children with Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (PBD) exhibit a profile of affect dysregulation, rapid mood cycling with mixed episodes, elated mood, impulsivity and irritability, increased energy and disinhibition (Geller et al., 1998; Pavuluri et al., 2007; Pavuluri and Passarotti, 2008). Recent studies suggest that affect dysregulation is accompanied by severe cognitive deficits in the attention and working memory domains relative to demographically matched healthy controls (HC). These deficits dramatically affect academic skills and complex behavior on a daily basis, even independent of illness status (Pavuluri et al., 2006; Dickstein et al., 2005). Given that working memory deficits are associated with scholastic underachievement and poor interpersonal functions (Pavuluri et al., 2006; Barnett et al., 2009) and may worsen in PBD with development compared to healthy peers (Pavuluri et al., 2009) it is crucial to develop innovative targeted cognitive intervention that may help reduce these severe cognitive deficits in PBD and prevent worsening of cognitive function and school performance as the child develops.

The aim of this project is to test whether euthymic adolescents with PBD (Type I and II) will show improvements in working memory functions after undergoing a 5-week, home-based working memory training treatment using Cogmed. Improvement will be tested relative to their initial performance and to a PBD group who will undergo a placebo treatment. Another aim is to assess whether the training group and the control group will show improvements in general attention and working memory tasks as assessed through standardized tests and computerized tasks developed in our laboratory.

Population & Sample Size: N = 20 adolescents with Pediatric Bipolar Disorder, ages 14 – 18 years

Design: Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Test-retest, 3 Month Follow Up