10 June 2015

Brains of teenagers with bipolar disorder develop differently

Teenagers with bipolar disorder suffer abnormal development in areas of the brain that control emotions.


Teens with bipolar disorder seem to have abnormal development in areas of the brain that help regulate emotions, researchers report.

"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," senior study author Hilary Blumberg, a professor of psychiatry, diagnostic radiology, and of psychiatric neuroscience at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a university news release.

Bipolar disorder typically appears in the teens and causes severe swings in mood, energy and activity levels. Problems with impulse control are common among people with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder are also at high risk for substance abuse and suicide, the researchers said.

Over two years, the Yale School of Medicine team conducted a series of MRI scans on 37 teens with bipolar disorder and a control group of 35 teens without the condition.

In normal development, teens tend to lose gray matter (neurons) and add white matter connections. But compared to the control group, teens with bipolar disorder lost more gray matter and had no increase in white matter connections. These differences were seen in two areas of the brain.

The findings suggest that brain circuits that regulate emotions develop differently in teens with bipolar disorder, according to the authors of the study.

The study was published recently in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Read more:

Maternal smoking may lead to bipolar disorder

Yoga may help people with bipolar disorder

Real life story: "How I learnt to live with bipolar disorder"

Image: horizontal orientation black and white image with a haze overlay, of an attractive woman, sitting on the floor in a corner, in a dark room, with her head in her hands/ Depression from Shutterstock


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules