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.
AdvertisementThis 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.
The study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.