Background: Cognitive deficits have been reported during the early stages of bipolar disorder; however, the role of medication on such deficits remains unclear. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of lithium and quetiapine monotherapy on cognitive performance in people following first episode mania. Methods: The design was a single-blind, randomised controlled trial on a cohort of 61 participants following first episode mania. Participants received either lithium or quetiapine monotherapy as maintenance treatment over a 12-month follow-up period. The groups were compared on performance outcomes using an extensive cognitive assessment battery conducted at baseline, month 3 and month 12 follow-up time-points. Results: There was a significant interaction between group and time in phonemic fluency at the 3-month and 12-month endpoints, reflecting greater improvements in performance in lithium-treated participants relative to quetiapine-treated participants. After controlling for multiple comparisons, there were no other significant interactions between group and time for other measures of cognition. Conclusion: Although the effects of lithium and quetiapine treatment were similar for most cognitive domains, the findings imply that early initiation of lithium treatment may benefit the trajectory of cognition, specifically verbal fluency in young people with bipolar disorder. Given that cognition is a major symptomatic domain of bipolar disorder and has substantive effects on general functioning, the ability to influence the trajectory of cognitive change is of considerable clinical importance.
- Bipolar disorder
- Early intervention