Teenagers With Bipolar Disorder Show Brain Abnormalities In Imaging Study

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New research indicates that adolescents with bipolar disorder show abnormal development in key areas of the brain that help regulate emotions, according to a new imaging study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

MRI brain scanA team of researchers from the Yale School of Medicine found that adolescents with bipolar disorder exhibited a loss of volume in the right insula and frontal cortex brain areas when compared to peers without bipolar disorder.

The scientists found these individuals lose significantly more gray matter than anticipated and show no increase in white matter connections, which the researchers say is a classic sign of normal adolescent brain development.

Using magnetic resonance imaging scans repeated over a two-year period, the researchers noted abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and insula of 37 adolescents with bipolar disorder which were not present in the scans of 35 adolescents without the disorder.

“In adolescence, the brain is very plastic so the hope is that one day we can develop interventions to prevent the development of bipolar disorder,” said senior author Dr. Hilary Blumberg, professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology at the Yale Child Study Center.

Adolescents typically lose some gray matter in the course of normal development, but the results of this study found that adolescents with bipolar disorder lose markedly more. More so, the study noted that these adolescents add fewer white matter connections which usually mark development well into adulthood, suggesting that brain circuits that regulate emotions develop differently in adolescents with bipolar disorder.

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