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Researchers Pinpoint Brain Area Linked To Bipolar Disorder

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Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have made an amazing discovery, which could be a potential game changer for the treatment and diagnosis of bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.

Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain condition that causes drastic shifts in a person's mood, energy, and activity.

These mood swings are basically classified into three categories: manic episodes (feeling extremely ecstatic and energized), depressive episodes (feeling miserable, hopeless, and suicidal), and hypomanic episodes (less severe manic episode).

These radical changes in mood can greatly affect a person's sleep, activities, and way of thinking, and often inhibit them from having a normal life.

The exact reason why bipolar disorder occurs in people is still unknown, although experts believe that several factors can trigger the illness or increase one's risk, These include genetics, family history, and brain structure and functioning.

Decreased Volumes Inside The Hippocampus

Using a combination of magnetic resonance imaging and an advanced segmentation approach, researchers evaluated the differences in the volumes of subfields of the hippocampus, the seahorse-shaped region in the brain's medial temporal lobe. The hippocampus, an essential part of the limbic system, controls our memories and emotional behavior.

The researchers discovered that the study participants with bipolar disorder had volume reduction in certain parts of their hippocampus. The portion of the tail, two cellular layers, and subfield 4 of the cornu ammonis all displayed lower volumes. The reduced volume was more pronounced in subjects with bipolar I disorder than those with other mood disorders.

Additionally, the researchers found that patients with bipolar I disorder displayed lower volumes of certain hippocampus areas the longer the period of their illness became. Volumes of other CA areas and hippocampal tail, on the other hand, decreased more in subjects with more manic episodes.

The entirety of the study can be found in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bo Cao, first and corresponding author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, is hopeful that the results of their study, funded partly through a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health NIMH), will pave the way for further in-depth research aimed at more accurate diagnosis and positive treatment response of the puzzling brain disorder.

"Our study is one of the first to locate possible damage of bipolar disorder in specific subfields within the hippocampus," Cao stated. "This is something that researchers have been trying to answer. The theory was that different subfields of the hippocampus may have different functions and may be affected differently in different mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder and major depression disorder."

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