Objectives : Autobiographical memory (ABM) is a special type of episodic memory, containing events that have occurred in a personal life. Overgeneral tendency of ABM refers to the retrieval of memory with only general and categorical descriptions rather than specific events. ABM specificity in depression and posttraumatic stress disorder is a robust finding with relation to cognitive vulnerability, affect regulation, problem-solving ability. It is also implicated in bipolar disorder with frequent relapses. In this study, we investigated whether ABM specificity was related to manic or euthymic mood states in patients with bipolar disorder.
Methods : Forty bipolar patients with manic and euthymic episodes and 25 healthy controls participated in this study. Prompted by 5 positively and 5 negatively valenced emotional cue words, each participant was instructed to recall positive or negative memories and describe them in detail. The one-way ANOVA was used to compare ABM scores and post-hoc analyses were done.
Results : Comapred to the healthy persons, the bipolar patients reported significantly more general than specific negative memories in both manic and euthymic episodes (p = 0.003). However, there was no significant difference between manic and euthymic patients (p = 0.074).
Conclusions : These results suggest that overgeneral tendency of negative ABM may be a trait abnormality in bipolar disorder. Moreover, this phenomenon might be related to underlying cognitive deficits or affect regulation irrespective of the mood state.