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

August 22, 2013

(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."

Explore further: Imaging in mental health and improving the diagnostic process

Related Stories

Imaging in mental health and improving the diagnostic process

August 15, 2013
What are some of the most troubling numbers in mental health? Six to 10—the number of years it can take to properly diagnose a mental health condition. Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, a Researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute ...

Patterns of brain activity in response of emotional faces may help diagnose bipolar disorder

June 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Software programmed to recognise patterns of activity in the brain could help doctors diagnose mental illnesses more accurately in the future, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust. In a study ...

Neuroimaging may offer new way to diagnose bipolar disorder

June 5, 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 ...

Bipolar disorder takes different path in patients who binge eat, study suggests

July 25, 2013
Bipolar disorder evolves differently in patients who also binge eat, a study by Mayo Clinic, the Lindner Center of HOPE and the University of Minnesota found. Binge eating and obesity often are present among bipolar patients, ...

How do happiness and sadness circuits contribute to bipolar disorder?

January 14, 2013
Bipolar disorder is a severe mood disorder characterized by unpredictable and dramatic mood swings between the highs of mania and lows of depression. These mood episodes occur among periods of 'normal mood', termed euthymia.

New online programme helps beat bipolar disorder

August 16, 2013
A new online self-management programme to help those suffering from bipolar disorder has just been made freely available to the public. It was developed by Dr Daniel Smith, University of Glasgow, and colleagues at Cardiff ...

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

0 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.