The Relationship Between Neurocognitive Functioning and Occupational Functioning in Bipolar Disorder: A Literature Review


  • Walace Duarte
  • Rodrigo Becerra
  • Kate Cruise


Neurocognitive impairment in Bipolar Disorder (BD) has been widely reported, even during remission. Neurocognitive impairment has been identified as a contributing factor towards unfavourable psychosocial functioning within this population. The objective of this review was to investigate the association between neurocognitive impairment and occupational functioning in BD. A literature review of English-language journal articles from January 1990 to November 2013 was undertaken utilising the PsychINFO, Scopus and Web of Knowledge databases. Studies that made specific reference to occupational outcomes were included, and those that reported on global psychosocial measures were excluded. Majority of the papers reviewed (20 out of 23) identified an association between neurocognitive impairment (particularly in executive functioning, verbal learning and memory, processing speed and attention) and occupational functioning. Several methodological issues were identified. There was a discrepancy in the measures used to assess neurocognitive function across studies and also the definition and measurement of occupational functioning. The clinical features of the samples varied across studies, and confounding variables were intermittently controlled. The review focused on English-language papers only and hence there is a bias toward the Western labour market. These limitations therefore influence the generalizability of the interpreted findings and the reliability of comparisons across studies. Neurocognitive impairment in BD appears to play a role in occupational outcomes. The findings of this review highlight the challenges for future research in this area, particularly in the measurement of neurocognitive and occupational functioning. Incorporating neurocognitive interventions in the treatment of BD, which has traditionally focussed solely on symptomatic recovery, may advance the vocational rehabilitation of these patients.