OBJECTIVES: Neurocognitive impairment has been found in bipolar patients. Hypercortisolemia is one possible cause but there has been no agreement on this. Previous sampling methods assessed only acute cortisol levels, whereas the association between cortisol and psychopathology might be better understood by investigating chronic levels. Fingernails are a novel method for measuring chronic cortisol concentration (CCC). Here, we measured CCC in euthymic bipolar disorder I (BD-I) patients and healthy controls using fingernails to investigate whether differences in CCC influenced neurocognitive performance. We also investigated whether differences in clinical illness variables influenced CCC in euthymic BD-I patients.
METHODS: A previous study demonstrated neurocognitive impairment in euthymic BD-I patients. The current study included a portion of this sample: 40 BD-I versus 42 matched controls who provided fingernail samples.
RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference in CCC between controls and BD-I (P = .09). Logistic regression analyses revealed that euthymic bipolar I subjects with more than five years of current euthymia had decreased odds of having higher fingernail cortisol concentration (>71.2 pg/mg) compared to those with less than 1.5 years (P = .04). There was no association between CCC and cognitive impairment in all domains before and after adjustment for age and sex.
CONCLUSIONS: The current evidence suggests CCC is not a trait biomarker in euthymic BD-I (BD-I). Longer periods of stability in affective disorders are associated with lower CCC. Fingernail cortisol does not seem to be implicated in neurocognitive impairment and BD-I. Future studies may investigate CCC in different illness phases of BD-I.