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Bipolar Disorder Brain Science
The causes of bipolar disorder and the nature of potentially effective treatments have remained elusive for researchers, but recent studies have begun to shed new light on brain function and chemistry in a way that could soon revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
- Researchers have identified a difference in brain activity between sufferers of bipolar disorder and those suffering from major depression. The study used MRI scans to look at the function of the amygdala, a part of the brain that is instrumental in the processing of emotion and found that the left side of the amygdala is less active in people with bipolar disorder than it is in people with depression. This finding could help lessen the misdiagnosis of depression in people who are actually suffering from bipolar disorder.
- Researchers have found that people with bipolar disorder have generally poorer cognitive abilities such as memory, processing speed, and executive functioning than those without bipolar disorder.
- A recent study found that people with bipolar disorder who participated in brain-training exercises designed to boost cognitive abilities saw a significant and sustained improvement in their cognitive skills. The hope is that this kind of brain training can help bipolar sufferers to improve their quality of life.
- An international research team has suggested a connection between a gene called EGR3 and a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which, in normal conditions, helps the brain react effectively to stress. Previous studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder have lower levels of BDNF during manic or depressive episodes, and this new research suggests that it may be possible to develop drugs that will improve the function of EGR3 and BDNF in bipolar sufferers.
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