Behavioral approach system (BAS) sensitivity and bipolar spectrum disorders: A retrospective and concurrent behavioral high-risk design

Lauren B. Alloy, Lyn Y. Abramson, Patricia D. Walshaw, Alex Cogswell, Jeannette M. Smith, Amy M. Neeren, Megan E. Hughes, Brian M. Iacoviello, Rachel K. Gerstein, Jessica Keyser, Snezana Urosevic, Robin Nusslock

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81 Scopus citations


In this article, we tested the vulnerability hypothesis of the behavioral approach system (BAS) hypersensitivity model of bipolar disorders. We examined whether self-reported BAS sensitivity predicts lifetime bipolar spectrum diagnoses as well as symptoms and personality characteristics associated with bipolar disorder using a retrospective and concurrent behavioral high-risk design. Participants with high (HBAS; n=28) or moderate (MBAS; n=24) BAS sensitivity were selected and given a lifetime psychiatric diagnostic interview and self-report measures of proneness to bipolar symptoms, current symptoms, and personality characteristics relevant to bipolarity. HBAS participants were significantly and substantially more likely to have a lifetime bipolar spectrum disorder diagnosis than were MBAS participants, but did not differ from MBAS participants in their likelihood of a unipolar depression diagnosis. Also, the HBAS group exhibited higher impulsivity and proneness to hypomanic symptoms than the MBAS group, and BAS-reward responsiveness predicted hypomanic personality characteristics. Finally, high behavioral inhibition system (BIS) sensitivity was associated with proneness to and current depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-155
Number of pages13
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgment The research reported in this article was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH 52617 to Lauren B. Alloy.


  • Behavioral approach system
  • Behavioral high-risk design
  • Behavioral inhibition system
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Depression
  • Hypomania


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