Researchers Map How Bipolar Disorder Changes The Brain

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A global consortium recently published a large MRI study in Molecular Psychiatry showing that individuals with bipolar disorder have alterations in brain areas that control emotion and inhibition.

“We created the first global map of bipolar disorder and how it affects the brain, resolving years of uncertainty on how people's brains differ when they have this severe illness,” said senior study author Ole A. Andreassen, a professor at the Norwegian Center for Mental Disorders Research at the University of Oslo.

The researchers analyzed the MRI scans of nearly 2,450 adults with bipolar disorder, and just over 4,000 non-bipolar control subjects. The investigators looked at the age of illness onset, effects of prescription drugs, mood state, history of psychosis, and sex differences on brain regions as well.

Compared to healthy control subjects, the bipolar patients had larger deficits in their brain’s gray matter. The biggest losses were found in the frontal and temporal regions that regulate self-control and motivation.

The MRI analysis also revealed that some bipolar patients with a history of psychosis had greater gray matter deficits. Those who took lithium, anti-psychotic, and anti-epileptic treatments showed different brain signatures, and patients treated with lithium tended to have less gray matter thinning suggesting this medication has a protective influence.

“This new map of the bipolar brain gives us a roadmap of where to look for treatment effects,” said study coauthor Paul Thompson, an associate director of the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. “By bringing together psychiatrists worldwide, we now have a new source of power to discover treatments that improve patients' lives.”

Future studies will look at how effectively different treatments and medications modify or shift these brain measures, and whether they improve clinical outcomes for bipolar patients.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: DigitalRalph

 
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