Youth with bipolar disorder (BD) and offspring of individuals with BD (BD-OFF) are characterized by higher levels of impulsive and overt aggression. The cognitive basis underlying these aggressive behaviors are not clarified in this population. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between cognitive alterations and aggressive behavior in youth with BD and BD-OFF.
Forty-two youth with BD, 17 BD-OFF and 57 healthy controls (HCs) were administered the Modified Overt Aggression Scale (MOAS), the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and the Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS). Multiple linear regression analyses were performed in the three groups separately. In each group, tests scores from the CANTAB were predictors. MOAS subscale scores and MOAS total scores were dependent variables. Results are corrected for age, IQ and mood state.
Both youth with BD and BD-OFF showed positive correlations between impairment in executive functions and levels of verbal aggression. In youth with BD, altered processing of either positive and negative stimuli positively correlated with MOAS total scores, whereas in BD-OFF, such relationship was negative.
Impulsive aggressive behaviors in youth with BD arise from a combination of altered affective processing and executive dysfunction. The negative relationship between affective processing and aggression in BD-OFF suggested the presence of possible mechanisms of resilience in this population.

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