A new study has been released by researchers who decided to create a road map of the brain for people who are dealing with bipolar disorder. The study looked at how the brain of these individuals was effected by the disorder and if there were noticeable differences in images comparing a brain of a person without the disorder to someone who does have it.
The study which comes from a consortium of researchers out of the University of Southern California, was published by EurekAlert and is the largest MRI study done to date with patients who have the disorder. Researchers have revealed that there is in fact a thinning of the grey matter in the brains of those individuals who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the regions responsible for emotions and inhibitions.
According to Ole A. Andreassen, a professor at the Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research at the University of Oslo and a senior author of the study, with this MRI study they were able to create the first map of the brain showing bipolar disorder and how the disorder actually affects the brain. With their findings, he feels they were able to resolve years of uncertainty in terms of how an individual’s brain differs when they have a severe illness.
Looking at thousands of scans from over 6,000 individuals, researchers found, gray matter thinning in the brains of patients who have bipolar disorder compared to those with healthy controls, with the greatest of those deficits being found in areas of the brain that deal with motivation and inhibitions, so primarily the temporal and frontal regions. For those patients who also had a history of psychosis, there were often larger deficits of the gray matter in those areas. Researchers also found that patients who take anti-psychotics, lithium and anti-epileptic treatments have different brain signatures. Individuals who took lithium saw less thinning of the gray matter which seems to indicate that the treatment acts as some sort of protection.
Derrek Hibar, a professor at USC and the first author of the study, feels that these are all important clues as to what areas of the brain to look at in terms of therapeutic effects of the drugs associated with treating such things as bipolar disorder. Moving forward, there will be more research done in terms of how different medications and treatments can modify or shift “brain measures,” while also improving symptoms and the overall outcomes for a patient.
By Dorothea James
Image Courtesy of the ENIGMA Bipolar Consortium/Derrek Hibar et al.