Brain scans reveal differences in depression and bipolar disorder, study finds

(Medical Xpress)—Brain scans measuring blood flow can help diagnose bipolar disorder at an early stage and distinguish the condition from depression, according to a study conducted by a University of Pittsburgh research team published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Bipolar disorder, characterized by that range from to very elevated or irritable moods, is difficult to diagnose and often is misdiagnosed as . Currently, only one in five patients with bipolar disorder is correctly diagnosed when first assessed by a physician, with an accurate diagnosis often taking up to 10 years. Problems with diagnoses can occur for various reasons, including miscommunications between patients and doctors. For example, patients with bipolar disease sometimes interpret manic phases as normal and do not disclose them to their physician.

"Earlier and more accurate diagnoses can make an enormous difference for patients and their families, and may even save lives," noted Jorge Almeida, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt and lead author of the study. "This is a very promising finding that highlights the usefulness of neuroimaging to help identify biological markers associated with different ."

For this study, 44 females were evaluated: 18 with bipolar-I disorder, 18 with unipolar depression (also called ), and 18 healthy individuals to act as a control group. The women were carefully matched for demographic and clinical variables, and all were experiencing a depressive episode as they were assessed for the study.

Researchers used a new and promising imaging method called Arterial Spin Labelling to measure blood flow, in a non-invasive fashion, to associated with depression. They found that measuring blood flow could identify with 81 percent accuracy which women were depressed (unipolar depression) and which women had bipolar depression. They also used a new analytical method called Pattern Recognition Analysis that allows researchers to individualize brain differences to a specific person.

"These results also suggest that we may one day be able to predict future bipolar behavior in younger adults who haven't shown any symptoms, allowing for earlier and more accurate treatment," added Dr. Almeida. "Researchers will now test these new technologies in a larger sample and in a multi-center study."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Neuroimaging may offer new way to diagnose bipolar disorder

Jun 05, 2013

MRI may be an effective way to diagnose mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, according to experts from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In a landmark study using advanced techniques, the researchers were ...

Recommended for you

Toddlers copy their peers to fit in, but apes don't

11 hours ago

From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human ...

Sadness lasts longer than other emotions

12 hours ago

Why is it that you can feel sad up to 240 times longer than you do feeling ashamed, surprised, irritated or even bored? It's because sadness often goes hand in hand with events of greater impact such as death ...

Can parents make their kids smarter?

12 hours ago

Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.