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Rumination in bipolar disorder: evidence for an unquiet mind

Sharmin Ghaznavi* and Thilo Deckersbach

Author Affiliations

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

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Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders 2012, 2:2  doi:10.1186/2045-5380-2-2

Published: 23 January 2012


Depression in bipolar disorder has long been thought to be a state characterized by mental inactivity. However, recent research demonstrates that patients with bipolar disorder engage in rumination, a form of self-focused repetitive cognitive activity, in depressed as well as in manic states. While rumination has long been associated with depressed states in major depressive disorder, the finding that patients with bipolar disorder ruminate in manic states is unique to bipolar disorder and challenges explanations put forward for why people ruminate. We review the research on rumination in bipolar disorder and propose that rumination in bipolar disorder, in both manic and depressed states, reflects executive dysfunction. We also review the neurobiology of bipolar disorder and recent neuroimaging studies of rumination, which is consistent with our hypothesis that the tendency to ruminate reflects executive dysfunction in bipolar disorder. Finally, we relate the neurobiology of rumination to the neurobiology of emotion regulation, which is disrupted in bipolar disorder.

bipolar disorder; rumination; executive functioning; emotion regulation