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Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: Effects on Cognitive Functioning

Stange, Jonathan P.*; Eisner, Lori R. PhD; Hölzel, Britta K. PhD; Peckham, Andrew D.§; Dougherty, Darin D. MD; Rauch, Scott L. MD; Nierenberg, Andrew A. MD; Lazar, Sara PhD; Deckersbach, Thilo PhD

Journal of Psychiatric Practice: November 2011 - Volume 17 - Issue 6 - p 410–419
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000407964.34604.03

Bipolar disorder is associated with impairments in cognition, including difficulties in executive functioning, even when patients are euthymic (neither depressed nor manic). The purpose of this study was to assess changes in self-reported cognitive functioning in patients with bipolar disorder who participated in an open pilot trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Following MBCT, patients reported significant improvements in executive functioning, memory, and ability to initiate and complete tasks, as measured by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe). Changes in cognitive functioning were correlated with increases in mindful, nonjudgmental observance and awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and were not associated with decreases in depression. Improvements tended to diminish after termination of treatment, but some improvements, particularly those in executive functioning, persisted after 3 months. These results provide preliminary evidence that MBCT may be a treatment option that can be used as an adjunct to medication to improve cognitive functioning in bipolar disorder. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2011;17:410–419)

*Department of Psychology, Temple University

Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts GeneralHospital, and Harvard Medical School

Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medi cal School, and University of Giessen

§Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital

Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and McLean Hospital

This work was supported by a K-23 NIMH Career Award 1K23MH074895-01A2 to Thilo Deckersbach. Part of this research was presented at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, San Francisco, 2010, and at the Ninth International Conference on Bipolar Disorder, Pittsburgh, 2011. Britta K. Hölzel was supported by a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework Programme.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence to: Thilo Deckersbach, PhD, Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, 50 Staniford Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.