Impaired recognition of happy facial expressions in bipolar disorder

Linette Lawlor-Savage, Scott R. Sponheim, Vina M. Goghari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background The ability to accurately judge facial expressions is important in social interactions. Individuals with bipolar disorder have been found to be impaired in emotion recognition; however, the specifics of the impairment are unclear. This study investigated whether facial emotion recognition difficulties in bipolar disorder reflect general cognitive, or emotion-specific, impairments. Impairment in the recognition of particular emotions and the role of processing speed in facial emotion recognition were also investigated. Methods Clinically stable bipolar patients (n = 17) and healthy controls (n = 50) judged five facial expressions in two presentation types, time-limited and self-paced. An age recognition condition was used as an experimental control. Results Bipolar patients' overall facial recognition ability was unimpaired. However, patients' specific ability to judge happy expressions under time constraints was impaired. Conclusions Findings suggest a deficit in happy emotion recognition impacted by processing speed. Given the limited sample size, further investigation with a larger patient sample is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-259
Number of pages7
JournalActa Neuropsychiatrica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • bipolar disorder
  • cognitive impairment
  • emotion processing
  • social cognition


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