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Differences in the Bipolar Brain


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Hi all,

I wanted to share a couple of links with you. The first is a really good article because it discusses all of the brain abnormalities that are normally seen in Bipolar disorder. I post this because I think that we are all busy blaming ourselves, our parents, our significant others at times and we really just need to focus on the fact that we are dealing with a physical illness and how do we manage those symptoms and what types of things might help us to better function in the workplace/world in general. I am sure that many of you may have already seen or read these, but for those who haven't, I hope it may be of help in some way.


patients with bipolar disorder are characterised, in comparison with healthy controls, by significant reductions of whole-brain and prefrontal lobe volumes and by enlargement of lateral ventricles and globus pallidus, although most of the brain changes detected in bipolar disorder do not seem to be diagnostically specific and some clinical variables, such as patients’ age, duration of illness and pharmacological treatment, appear to be relevant in determining the magnitude of observed effect sizes.

Next is the part I want to quote because it says it all in very plain English:


involving 443 bipolar disorder patients and 551 mentally healthy controls.

Compared with controls, patients with bipolar disorder had decreased activity and/or reduction in gray matter volume in the right inferior frontal gyrus, the right superior frontal gyrus, the anterior cingulate, and the precuneus. These areas are a cortical-cognitive brain network associated with the regulation of emotions, the researchers noted.

On the other hand, bipolar patients also had increased activity in ventral-limbic brain structures (the parahippocampal gyrus and the amygdala) compared with controls. These brain areas mediate the experience of emotions and generation of emotional responses, observes the team.

“These results support and refine previously proposed neurobiological models of the disorder and suggest that an imbalance between cortical-cognitive and limbic brain networks may serve as a neurobiological marker of bipolar disorder,” Wessa said.


The scans let them see the density of cells that release the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

These monoamines, as the chemicals are called, send signals between brain cells, or neurons. They're involved in mood regulation, stress responses, pleasure, reward, and cognitive functions like concentration, attention, and executive functions. Scientists have hypothesized their role in bipolar disorder for decades, but have never proven it.

The new University of Michigan result points to a clear difference in the density of monoamine-releasing cells in the brains of bipolar people even when they are not having symptoms. and later in the same article:

found that bipolar patients averaged 31 percent more binding sites in the region known as the thalamus, and 28 percent more in the ventral brain stem. In the thalamus, bipolar women actually had levels nearing those of healthy comparison subjects, but bipolar men had a 42 percent higher binding rate, suggesting that there may be specific biological causes for the clinical differences in the course of the illness in men and women.

Adding in the results of functional tests, they found that the more monoamine cells patients had, the lower their scores on tests of executive function and verbal learning. This finding confirms earlier results from research at the University of Michigan, and suggests that the altered brain chemistry due to the excess monoamine cells may directly impact the patients' cognitive and social function.

Thanks for being here to share this journey


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