Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Original Article

Unstructured Group Support Enhances Compliance to Pharmacological Treatment by Improving Social Cognition in Patients with Bipolar Disorder: A Pilot fMRI Study


Department of Psychiatry, Tianjin Anding Hospital, Nankai University Affiliated Anding Hospital, Tianjin Mental Health Center, Tianjin, China


Department of Psychiatry, Tianjin Fourth Central Hospital, Tianjin, China


Department of Psychiatry, School of Mental Health, Jining Medical University, Jining, Shandong Province, China


Department of Psychiatry, Wenzhou Seventh People’s Hospital, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China

Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2021; 31: 269-279
DOI: 10.5152/pcp.2021.20019
Read: 515 Downloads: 262 Published: 04 August 2021

Objective: Unstructured group support (UGS) has been shown to improve the prognosis of patients with bipolar disorder (BP). However, objective evidence is needed to support implementation of UGS intervention. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of UGS intervention and the associated alterations in the objective indexes, mainly global function connectivity density (gFCD), in BP patients.

Methods: Remitted BP patients were enrolled and randomly assigned into a UGS group (received UGS intervention for 26 weekly UGS sessions, and a sham group (received sham intervention). The effects of UGS on adherence to the prescribed medications, social cognition, and quality of life were examined and compared between these 2 groups. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed to determine the functional index and gFCD values, as an objective measurement of functional alterations in the brain.

Results: The compliance rate was significantly greater in the UGS group than in the sham group at the 2-year follow-up, after 26 weekly intervention sessions. The proportion of patients with increased levels of compliance to pharmacological treatment, improved social cognition, and improved quality of life were significantly higher in the UGS group than in the sham group. Furthermore, consistent with these subjective measurements, the fMRI study revealed that gFCD values significantly increased in the regions of the brain that are related to social cognition, in patients with UGS intervention.

Conclusion: UGS improves the compliance to pharmacological treatment, quality of life, and social cognition of remitted BP patients. Notably, these findings offer the first objective evidence that UGS enhances gFCD in BP patients. Thus, UGS implementation can help improve the psychiatric care for BP patients.

Cite this article as: Wang Y, Zhang Y, Tian H, et al. Unstructured group support enhances compliance to pharmacological treatment by improving social cognition in patients with bipolar disorder: A pilot fMRI study. Psychiatr Clin Psychopharmacol. 2021;31(3):269-279.

EISSN 2475-0581