Decision Motivation Differs in Bipolar and Schizophrenia

Bipolar (BD) and schizophrenia (SZ) are two mental health conditions that share many symptoms related to psychosis. However, both of these conditions also differ in unique ways. One such way that BD and SZ differ is in the neurological processing of incentive discrimination. Using the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), a test used to identify various decision making processes in people with a spectrum of mental health issues including addiction, Paolo Brambilla of the Inter-University Centre for Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Udine in Italy recently discovered some distinctions between how people with BD and people with SZ respond to reward-punishment tasks.

In his study, Brambilla compared the performance of 70 clients in remission from BD, 70 clients in remission from SZ, and 140 nonpsychotic participants. He found that three categories of motivational processing and performance emerged as clearly different between the groups. The participants with SZ had low expectancy learning scores and had higher inconsistencies in responses when compared to the nonpsychotic or BD participants. The BD participants demonstrated significant focus on reward-punishment outcomes in relation to either the SZ or nonpsychotic participants. Brambilla noted that even though all of the psychotic participants were on medication at the time of the experiment, the results were analyzed with that consideration.

Brambilla pointed out that other factors, including presence of manic or depressive symptoms, could influence the outcome of the results, especially for the BD participants. The diminished expectancy learning found among the SZ participants was not a surprising finding, as many studies have shown that people with SZ have difficulty considering past events when making current decisions. Thus, prior outcomes to poor decisions are usually not recalled when clients with SZ are faced with new choices. Clearly, these results show that cognitive processes are impacted by schizophrenia and bipolar in unique and independent ways. Brambilla added, “Our results point to dissociable processes underlying abnormal incentive decision making in BD and SZ that could potentially be mapped to different neural circuits.”

Brambilla, P., et al. (2013). Increased salience of gains versus decreased associative learning differentiate bipolar disorder from schizophrenia during incentive decision making. Psychological Medicine 43.3 (2013): 571-80. ProQuest. Web.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Scarlet


    May 3rd, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    I have seen a lot of articles on here lately highlighting the many similarities between schizophrenia and bipolar. I have to say that I am a little surprised because I have never even remotely considered that the two could share some of the same problems.

  • jill


    May 3rd, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    important things to learn and know for not just family members of those with BD ans schizophrenia but also for everybody in general.once people know the similarities and differences they would probably be in a much better position to understand and acknowledge the difficulties that these people face.the general prejudice will also dilute then.

  • gordon


    May 4th, 2013 at 4:59 AM

    just as long as each is treated in the appropriate way then differences and similarities don’t really matter do they?

  • Olivia


    May 6th, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    I know that this may seem just a little obvious but. . . if they are different diseases why should there even be any expectation that they would be motivated or driven by the same forces?

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.