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The cognitive connection

Feeling scatterbrained? Can’t remember a thing? It may be “bipolar brain fog”—and you can manage it

BP Hope

By Jamie Talan

“I’m the PhD down the hall whose memory fails during critical discussions at the office,” says Deb.

Deb, 48, is a behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She leads research and oversees a team of data analysts in the Division of Violence Prevention.

Before her bipolar diagnosis six years ago, she sometimes had trouble keeping focused. Now recall is a bigger problem, especially if she’s expected to dredge up dates or statistics during a meeting or keep track of details after an impromptu encounter.

“I ask people to schedule meetings rather than have these hallways conversations when we need to make decisions,” she says.

In meetings, she takes copious notes to jog her memory.

“I scribble as fast as I can … sometimes so fast I can’t read my own notes,” she reports. “I just have to chuckle when, ‘This research should move ahead,’ turns into, ‘This rabbit should go to bed.’”

Psychiatrists and researchers are coming to appreciate that memory lapses and other neurocognitive problems—disorganization, groping for words, difficulty learning new information—can go hand in hand with the more obvious mood and behavioral symptoms that characterize bipolar.

Joseph Goldberg, MD, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, helped put these “thinking” problems on the bipolar map. He’s co-editor of Cognitive Dysfunction in Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Clinicians, which came out in 2008. … [end of excerpt]

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