Executive functioning deficits among adults with Bipolar Disorder (types I and II): A systematic review and meta-analysis

Document Type

Journal Article


Elsevier BV

Place of Publication



School of Arts & Humanities / Centre for Learning and Teaching




Originally published as: Dickinson, T., Becerra, R., & Coombes, J. (2017). Executive functioning deficits among adults with Bipolar Disorder (types I and II): A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 218, 407-427. Available here.


Background Executive functioning (EF) deficits contribute to a significant proportion of the burden of disease associated with bipolar disorder (BD). Yet, there is still debate in the literature regarding the exact profile of executive functioning in BD. The purpose of the present project was to assess whether EF deficits exist among adults suffering BD, and whether these deficits (if apparent) differ by BD subtype. Methods A systematic search identified relevant literature. Randomised controlled trials that used neuropsychological assessment to investigate EF among adults 16–65 years) with a remitted DSM diagnosis of BD (type I or II) were included. Studies were published between 1994 and 2015. A systematic review and meta-analysis were undertaken. For individual studies, standardised mean differences (Cohen's d) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated and represented in forest plots to illustrate differences in executive performance between groups. Summary effects were produced and tests of heterogeneity employed to assess the dispersion and generalisability of results. Results Thirty-six studies met criteria for inclusion. Six domains of EF were identified: Set-shifting (SS), inhibition (INH), planning (PLA), verbal fluency (VF), working memory (WM), and attention (ATT). BD1s performed worse than HCs in all domains. BD2s demonstrated impairment in VF, WM, SS, and ATT. The results were mixed for comparisons between BD1s and BD2s, but revealed that BD2s can experience similar (or sometimes greater) EF impairment. Limitations Only a limited number of studies that included BD2 samples were available for inclusion in the current study. Subgroup analysis to elucidate potential moderators of within-study variance was not undertaken. Conclusion This is the first systematic review and meta-analysis to have compared the EF of remitted BD1s, BD2s, and HCs. The results provided useful insight into the EF profile of patients with BD, and offered commentary as to some of the contradictory results reported in the literature. A standardised methodological protocol for assessment of EF in BD was proposed. The information in this review could enhance our understanding of EF impairment inherent in BD, and the methods and efficacy with which clinicians assess and treat this population.