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      Theory of Mind in Bipolar Disorder, with Comparison to the Impairments Observed in Schizophrenia

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          Our ability to make sense of information on the potential intentions and dispositions of others is of paramount importance for understanding their communicative intent, and for judging what an appropriate reaction might be. Thus, anything that impinges on this ability has the potential to cause significant social impairment, and compromise an individual’s level of functioning. Both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are known to feature theory of mind impairment. We conducted a theoretical review to determine the extent and types of theory of mind impairment in bipolar disorder, and evaluate their relationship to medication and symptoms. We also considered possible mediatory mechanisms, and set out to discover what else could be learnt about the impairment in bipolar disorder by comparison to the profile of impairment in schizophrenia. The literature established that in bipolar disorder (i) some form of theory of mind impairment has been observed in all mood states, including euthymia, (ii) the form of theory of mind assessed and task used to make the assessment influence the impairment observed, and (iii) there might be some relationship to cognitive impairment, although a relationship to standard clinical variables was harder to establish. What also became clear in the literature on bipolar disorder itself was the possible relationship of theory of mind impairment to history of psychotic symptoms. Direct comparative studies, including patients with schizophrenia, were thus examined, and provided several important directions for future research on the bases of impairment in bipolar disorder. Particularly prominent was the issue of whether theory of mind impairment could be considered a candidate endophenotype for the psychoses, although current evidence suggests that this may be premature. The differences in impairment across schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may, however, have genuine differential effects on social functioning and the likely success of remediation.

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          Most cited references 112

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          Recognition of faux pas by normally developing children and children with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism.

          Most theory of mind (ToM) tests are designed for subjects with a mental age of 4-6 years. There are very few ToM tests for subjects who are older or more able than this. We report a new test of ToM, designed for children 7-11 years old. The task involves recognizing faux pas. Study 1 tested 7-9, and 11-year-old normal children. Results showed that the ability to detect faux pas developed with age and that there was a differential developmental profile between the two sexes (female superiority). Study 2 tested children with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA), selected for being able to pass traditional 4- to 6-year level (first- and second-order) false belief tests. Results showed that whereas normal 9- to 11-year-old children were skilled at detecting faux pas, children with AS or HFA were impaired on this task. Study 3 reports a refinement in the test, employing control stimuli. This replicated the results from Study 2. Some patients with AS or HFA were able to recognize faux pas but still produced them. Future research should assess faux pas production.
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            Social cognitive training for schizophrenia: a meta-analytic investigation of controlled research.

            A wealth of evidence has revealed that deficits in social cognitive skills (including facial affect recognition (FAR), social cue perception, Theory of Mind (ToM), and attributional style) are evident in schizophrenia and are linked to a variety of domains of functional outcome. In light of these associations, a growing number of studies have attempted to ameliorate these deficits as a means of improving outcome in the disorder through the use of structured behavioral training. This study used quantitative methods of meta-analysis to assess the efficacy of behavioral training programs designed to improve social cognitive function. A total of 19 studies consisting of 692 clients were aggregated from relevant databases. Outcome measures were organized according to whether they were social cognitive tests proximal to the intervention or whether they represented measures of treatment generalization (symptoms, observer-rated community, and institutional function). With respect to social cognitive measures, weighted effect-size analysis revealed that there were moderate-large effects of social cognitive training procedures on FAR (identification, d = 0.71 and discrimination, d = 1.01) and small-moderate effects of training on ToM (d = 0.46), while effects on social cue perception and attributional style were not significant. For measures of generalization, weighted effect-size analysis revealed that there were moderate-large effect on total symptoms (d = 0.68) and observer-rated community and institutional function (d = 0.78). Effects of social cognitive training programs on positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia were nonsignificant. Moderating variables and implications for future research and treatment development are discussed.
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              Bipolar disorder diagnosis: challenges and future directions.

              Bipolar disorder refers to a group of affective disorders, which together are characterised by depressive and manic or hypomanic episodes. These disorders include: bipolar disorder type I (depressive and manic episodes: this disorder can be diagnosed on the basis of one manic episode); bipolar disorder type II (depressive and hypomanic episodes); cyclothymic disorder (hypomanic and depressive symptoms that do not meet criteria for depressive episodes); and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (depressive and hypomanic-like symptoms that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for any of the aforementioned disorders). Bipolar disorder type II is especially difficult to diagnose accurately because of the difficulty in differentiation of this disorder from recurrent unipolar depression (recurrent depressive episodes) in depressed patients. The identification of objective biomarkers that represent pathophysiologic processes that differ between bipolar disorder and unipolar depression can both inform bipolar disorder diagnosis and provide biological targets for the development of new and personalised treatments. Neuroimaging studies could help the identification of biomarkers that differentiate bipolar disorder from unipolar depression, but the problem in detection of a clear boundary between these disorders suggests that they might be better represented as a continuum of affective disorders. Innovative combinations of neuroimaging and pattern recognition approaches can identify individual patterns of neural structure and function that accurately ascertain where a patient might lie on a behavioural scale. Ultimately, an integrative approach, with several biological measurements using different scales, could yield patterns of biomarkers (biosignatures) to help identify biological targets for personalised and new treatments for all affective disorders. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                URI :
                Front Psychiatry
                Front Psychiatry
                Front. Psychiatry
                Frontiers in Psychiatry
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                18 January 2016
                : 6
                1Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London , London, UK
                Author notes

                Edited by: Tamsyn Elizabeth Van Rheenen, University of Melbourne, Australia

                Reviewed by: Peter Kirsch, Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit, Germany; Casimiro Cabrera Abreu, Queen’s University and Providence Care, Canada

                *Correspondence: Rachel L. C. Mitchell, rachel.mitchell@

                Specialty section: This article was submitted to Affective Disorders and Psychosomatic Research, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry

                Copyright © 2016 Mitchell and Young.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 135, Pages: 21, Words: 17079
                Funded by: Brain and Behavior Research Foundation 10.13039/100000874
                Award ID: NARSAD Young Investigator Grant
                Funded by: National Institute for Health Research 10.13039/501100000272
                Funded by: King’s College London 10.13039/100009360
                Funded by: Higher Education Funding Council for England 10.13039/501100000384


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