Bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with impairment in cognitive domains such as verbal memory and executive functions. Very few studies have assessed dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEA-S) in BD and its relation to cognitive functioning despite evidence showing its regulatory effects on glucocorticoid action. The aim of our study was to explore the association of cortisol, DHEA-S, and cortisol to DHEA-S ratio with visuospatial memory and executive functioning in BD.
Cognitive performance of 60 bipolar I patients and 30 healthy subjects was evaluated by using Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery tasks targeting visuospatial memory (spatial recognition memory) and executive functions (planning [Stockings of Cambridge; SOC] and attentional set shifting [ID/ED]). Morning serum cortisol and DHEA-S levels were measured in patients. Main effects of cortisol, DHEA-S, and cortisol/DHEA-S ratio for each neurocognitive task were explored in multiple regression analyses correcting for demographic and clinical parameters as well as treatment-related factors (current use of antipsychotic and mood stabilizer medication).
Bipolar patients showed poorer performance than healthy subjects in planning and attentional set shifting but not in visuospatial memory. Cortisol to DHEA-S ratio predicted worse performance in planning (SOC).
This is the first study to assess memory and executive function in BD in relation to DHEA-S and cortisol to DHEA-S ratio. We report an association of cortisol to DHEA-S ratio with worse performance in planning in bipolar I patients, which warrants further investigation.