Group and sex differences in social cognition in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder and healthy people

Mercè Jódar Vicente, Diego Palao, N. (Narcís) Cardoner, Guillem Navarra-Ventura, Muriel Vicent-Gil, Maria Serra-Blasco, Carmen Massons, Josep Maria Crosas, Jesús Cobo, Abigail Jubert, Sol Fernández-Gonzalo, Ximena Goldberg, Guillermo Lahera, Eduard Vieta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Impairment of social cognition is documented in bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder (SCH). In healthy individuals, women perform better than men in some of its sub-domains. However, in BD and SCH the results are mixed. Our aim was to compare emotion recognition, affective Theory of Mind (ToM) and first- and second-order cognitive ToM in BD, SCH and healthy subjects, and to investigate sex-related differences. Methods: 120 patients (BD = 60, SCH = 60) and 40 healthy subjects were recruited. Emotion recognition was assessed by the Pictures of Facial Affect (POFA) test, affective ToM by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) and cognitive ToM by several false-belief stories. Group and sex differences were analyzed using parametric (POFA, RMET) and non-parametric (false-belief stories) tests. The impact of age, intelligence quotient (IQ) and clinical variables on patient performance was examined using a series of linear/logistic regressions. Results: Both groups of patients performed worse than healthy subjects on POFA, RMET and second-order false-belief (p < 0.001), but no differences were found between them. Instead, their deficits were related to older age and/or lower IQ (p < 0.01). Subthreshold depression was associated with a 6-fold increased risk of first-order false-belief failure (p < 0.001). Sex differences were only found in healthy subjects, with women outperforming men on POFA and RMET (p ≤ 0.012), but not on first/second-order false-belief. Limitations: The cross-sectional design does not allow for causal inferences. Conclusion: BD and SCH patients had deficits in emotion recognition, affective ToM, and second-order cognitive ToM, but their performance was comparable to each other, highlighting that the differences between them may be subtler than previously thought. First-order cognitive ToM remained intact, but subthreshold depression altered their normal functioning. Our results suggest that the advantage of healthy women in the emotional and affective aspects of social cognition would not be maintained in BD and SCH.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Volume109
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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