Bipolar disorder (BD) is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide among young people of age range 10‐24 years. Although the diagnosis is largely defined by the mood episodes associated with the illness, cognitive deficits are among the most persistent and disabling symptoms of illness and have a profound impact on clinical course and functional outcome. Specifically, trait‐like impairment is common in the domains of attention, verbal learning, and executive function. Although considerable progress has been made over the past two decades, our understanding of the underlying causes of the cognitive deficits in BD remains surprisingly limited. As such, there are no approved treatments for this disabling symptom specific to BD.
Clinicians who treat patients with BD can attest to the vast range of functioning seen within BD, with some individuals achieving high‐level occupational and social status while others are broadly disabled for most of their lives. We cannot yet answer the critical question of why some patients with BD develop significant cognitive deficits while others appear relatively resilient to cognitive decline and maintain high levels of social and occupational functioning. Large‐scale studies are needed to better identify both risk and resilience factors for cognitive impairment in BD.
In an effort to advance the field through collaboration and open data sharing, the first international consortium focused on this highly significant topic has been initiated: The International Consortium Investigating Cognition in Bipolar Disorder (ICONIC‐BD). This effort brings together a large, international team of experts in BD with existing data on cognition in individuals with BD to form a unique consortium with the ability to unambiguously address some of these important questions through large‐scale mega‐analyses.
The coordinating site for ICONIC‐BD is the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts; this site is led by Katherine Burdick. To date, participation from a total of 15 sites has been enlisted, that have provided meta‐data for inclusion in this initiative.
Investigators with the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program have joined forces with these world-renowned researchers. The University of Michigan team consists of Melvin McInnis, MD; David Marshall, PhD, ABPP-CN; and Kelly Ryan, PhD, ABPP-CN.
“The goal of this new consortium is to advance the field in underlying causes of neurocognitive impairment, impact on functioning, and aid in development of new treatments,” says Melvin McInnis, MD, the Prechter Program’s Research Director.
Estimated sample sizes are >3,000 individuals with bipolar disorder and >2,000 healthy controls. The Prechter Bipolar Research Program, in particular, is a significant contributor, with close to 1,100 individuals provided for analysis.