Bipolar Brains Are Different

In the largest MRI study on people with bipolar disorder, researchers determined that the areas in the brain that control inhibition and emotion – the frontal and temporal regions – are significantly different than those of people without the disorder.


Bipolar patients tend to have gray matter reductions in frontal brain regions involved in self-control (orange colors), while sensory and visual regions are normal (gray colors). Credit: Image courtesy of the ENIGMA Bipolar Consortium/Derrek Hibar et al


The study was led by the University of Southern California Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC: ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics Through Meta Analysis). It involved 76 centers and included 26 different research groups around the world.

The researchers measured the MRI scans of 2,447 adults with bipolar disorder and 4,056 healthy controls. They also looked at the effects of commonly used prescription medications, age of illness onset, history of psychosis, mood state, age and sex differences on cortical regions.

Some findings suggest those with a history of psychosis have greater deficits in the affected regions and there are “different brain signatures in patients who took lithium, anti-psychotics and anti-epileptic treatments.”

Further studies will look at how these medications affect brain measures and subsequently, modify symptoms and outcomes for patients. “This new map of the bipolar brain gives us a roadmap of where to look for treatment effects,” said Thompson, an associate director of the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine.

I think it is awesome that they are finding physical proof of the nature of bipolar disorder; that it is not some myth or personality flaw or weakness or moral shortcoming. These findings can give people like me the validation they need to know that they are not “crazy,” but ill.

Having a brain that doesn’t function normally is no different than having a pancreas that doesn’t function normally (diabetes.) Granted the symptoms of bipolar disorder may affect those around the individual more severely than the symptoms of diabetes, but the general analogy is still the same.

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8 thoughts on “Bipolar Brains Are Different

  1. I am finding music is helping me stay level. I also am finding focusing on blogging is helping. I am not feeling rushed to publish but take my time mulling over material and editing. That has stopped the dramatic highs and lows which is a new wrinkle. I keep learning what helps. I think bipolar people are very creative. My emotions take and I get cranked up. I sometime tell myself when I am going too high or two low “lets take a nap and reset this brain. Sometimes that works. I work at accepting myself no matter where I am on the scale. How about you. I am unmedicated and have been for well over 10 years. I do take some supplements that I professional give me. We muscle test for everyting I take and it changes often but less the past few years.

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    • Yes, acceptance takes the suffering out of it for me. I am on alot of medicine that helps me greatly. I have also gotten to know my triggers fairly well and have developed many coping skills over the years. I know what I need to do and am always open to learning more. Ive come a long way and feel very blessed to have been saved from death of this illness. I do a lot of napping too. It helps my brain also. 😊. Thanks for your comments.

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  2. Pingback: Things are Getting a Little Personal | Write into the Light

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