Background. The rate of binocular rivalry has been reported to be slower in subjects with bipolar disorder than in controls when tested with drifting, vertical and horizontal gratings of high spatial frequency.
Method. Here we assess the rate of binocular rivalry with stationary, vertical and horizontal gratings of low spatial frequency in 30 subjects with bipolar disorder, 30 age- and sex-matched controls, 18 subjects with schizophrenia and 18 subjects with major depression. Along with rivalry rate, the predominance of each of the rivaling images was assessed, as was the distribution of normalized rivalry intervals.
Results. The bipolar group demonstrated significantly slower rivalry than the control, schizophrenia and major depression groups. The schizophrenia and major depression groups did not differ significantly from the control group. Predominance values did not differ according to diagnosis and the distribution of normalized rivalry intervals was well described by a gamma function in all groups.
Conclusions. The results provide further evidence that binocular rivalry is slow in bipolar disorder and demonstrate that rivalry predominance and the distribution of normalized rivalry intervals are not abnormal in bipolar disorder. It is also shown by comparison with previous work, that high strength stimuli more effectively distinguish bipolar from control subjects than low strength stimuli. The data on schizophrenia and major depression suggest the need for large-scale specificity trials. Further study is also required to assess genetic and pathophysiological factors as well as the potential effects of state, medication, and clinical and biological subtypes.
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