Researchers from the PediMind Program at Bradley Hospital at Brown University conducted the first meta-analysis comparing the brain activity of youth and adults with bipolar disorder. The analysis included data from 100 studies that used fMRI to measure changes in the brain in response to various forms of stimuli. The researchers focused on regions of the brain that are significant for emotional reactions.
The results, published in JAMA Psychiatry, showed that when participants viewed images of emotional faces, youth with bipolar disorder displayed greater amygdala activity than adults with the disorder. When using emotional stimuli, the researchers found that brain activity was greater in the inferior front gyrus and precuneus areas of youth than of adults. Nonemotional stimuli showed a lack of brain activity in youth when compared with adults.
"Despite our best current treatments, bipolar disorder exacts a considerable toll on youth, including problems with friends, parents, and at school, and high rates of psychiatric hospitalization and suicide attempts," said Daniel Dickstein, M.D., senior author and an associate professor of psychiatry and of pediatrics at Brown. "More research into targeted treatments is needed now that we know children's brains are impacted in specific, identifiable ways by bipolar disorder. Locating the underlying brain change in bipolar youth could lead us to new, brain-based ways to improve how we diagnose and treat this disorder."
To read more about research on pediatric bipolar disorder and underlying mechanisms that may be associated with it, see the Psychiatric News articles "Family-Focused Therapy Reduces Bipolar Symptoms in Youth" and "Same Brain Circuits Linked With Psychosis in Two Disorders."
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