Researchers Create Global Map of How Bipolar Disorder Affects the Brain

brain scan
Credit to flickr.com user Tim Sheerman-Chase. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

In the largest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to date, researchers have created a roadmap of bipolar disorder and how the illness affects the brain. Scientists found that people who suffer from bipolar disorder possessed differences in the brain regions that control inhibition and emotion.

 

Using MRI scans of 6,503 individuals, including 2,447 adults with bipolar disorder and 4,056 healthy controls, the researchers created a map of bipolar disorder. Also measured was the age of onset for the disorder, history of psychosis, mood state, age, sex, and commonly used prescription medications.

According to the study, patients with bipolar disorder showed thinning of grey matter in the frontal and temporal regions of the brain, which control motivation and inhibitions. The research also demonstrated that lithium has a protective effect on the brain, associated with less thinning of gray matter.

The international report includes research from 76 centers and 26 different groups around the world. Published in Molecular Psychiatry, the findings demonstrate the underlying mechanisms of bipolar disorder.

Researchers hope to use the study in early detection efforts, as well as to determine which medications will protect the brain.

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