A new study says it is
possible to identify young people who have a propensity to develop bipolar
disorder even before the illness sets in.
In a new study, carried out at the Black Dog
Institute by researcher Philip Mitchell, differences were observed in the brain
activity of young people who were clinically sound, but who had a parent or
sibling suffering from bipolar disorder.
This is a significant revelation as currently family
history is the only factor to determine who is at risk for bipolar disorder. It
must be noted that even if someone has a family history, there is only about
10% chance that they will actually get bipolar disorder.
During the study the
researchers compared the brain functioning of 50 participants, between the ages
of 18-30 years, who had a family history of bipolar disorder in the family,
with 50 others who had no known risk.
The study subjects were
shown pictures of happy, fearful or calm faces and while they were seeing these
pictures their brains were monitored
using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Professor Mitchell, head of the School of
Psychiatry, University of NSW, demonstrated that the scans of the brains of
young people who were at risk for the illness showed reduced responses to the
emotive faces that they were watching, particularly fearful expressions,
suggesting that these kids were less responsive to emotional challenges.
These indications were seen as a confirmation of the changes in the brains of
those with bipolar disorder even before the condition develops.
Prof Mitchell noted
that identifying these risks at the earliest stage could help in preventing
bipolar disorders from developing or it would at least help in reducing the
severity of the condition.
study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.