Erythropoietin Improves Cognitive Function in Bipolar Depression

April 30, 2014 · Posted in Potential Treatments 

Patient receiving an infusionBipolar disorder is associated with cognitive dysfunction, and no definitive treatment has yet been found to reverse these problems with memory and attention. A new study by Kamilla W. Miskowiak presented at the 2014 meeting of the International Society of Bipolar Disorders explored the use of erythropoietin, a hormone that induces the production of red blood cells, as a treatment for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder.

Participants in the double-blind study were randomized to receive either eight weekly erythropoietin infusions (40,000 IU) or eight weekly saline infusions. While there was only a trend toward improvement in verbal memory, there were other statistically significant outcomes: erythropoietin improved sustained attention, recognition of happy faces, and speed of complex information processing across learning, attention, and executive function. These outcomes were not related to changes in reaction time or mood, and lasted as long as six weeks after the eighth erythropoietin infusion, by which time red blood cell production had normalized.


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