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Mental Health Awareness Month: Thinning of gray matter in bipolar disorder patients responsible for its symptoms

05-11-17 Category: Bipolar disorder

Mental Health Awareness Month: Thinning of gray matter in bipolar disorder patients responsible for its symptoms

Millions of Americans each year are diagnosed with some kind of mental disorder, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly 18.5 percent adults in the United States experience mental illness in any given year.

Since 1949, every year the U.S. has been observing the “National Mental Health Awareness Month” in May to educate people about various kinds of mental illnesses that may affect people. In addition, federal agencies also organize events to inform people about the habits that may increase the potential risk of emotional disorders, or exacerbate their existing condition. Various organizations have been using social media tools and organized resources to raise awareness about the prevalence and gravity of mental disorders.

Examining changes in brains of bipolar disorder patients

Effective treatment options are available for most mental health problems, but some like bipolar disorder is still a mystery for scientists. “What is the treatment for bipolar disorder” is a question that continues to haunt psychologists as they strive to understand the effects of this mental problem on certain brain regions. Through this exercise, they also aim to find an efficacious intervention for bipolar disorder.

A recent study, titled “Cortical abnormalities in bipolar disorder: an MRI analysis of 6503 individuals from the ENIGMA Bipolar Disorder Working Group,” revealed how patients with bipolar disorder have differentiation in brain regions regulating inhibition and emotions. The research, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in May 2017, observed abnormalities in brain structures of those afflicted with bipolar disorder.

As part of the study, the researchers evaluated MRI scans of 6,503 people, of which, 2,477 were adult patients with bipolar disorder. The rest 4,056 were healthy and did not suffer form the disorder. In addition, the researchers also examined other factors like the impact of commonly used opioid medicines, age at which the disorder was first detected, history of psychosis, mood conditions, age and gender differences in the cortical regions of the brain.

A detailed assessment revealed thinning of the cortical gray matter in bipolar disorder patients when compared and contrasted to their healthy counterparts. The researchers observed the maximum nature of deficiencies in the frontal and temporal regions that manage self-consciousness and other sensations. In addition, those who were affected by bipolar disorder along with psychosis exhibited more deficits in the gray matter of the brain. The researchers realized the protective effects of medications containing lithium as lithium treatment was linked to less thinning of the gray matter.

Psychologists suggest that mapping the brain regions affected initially helps in early diagnosis and prevention of the disorder. The study also offered significant tips as to where to look for in the brain while trying to assess the therapeutic effects of the drugs recommended. While more research is necessary to understand the impact of different kinds of medications in treating the disorder, the observations in this study are important as they help clinicians understand the nature of changes they need to look for in their patients showing symptoms of the illness.

Bipolar disorder is debilitating and affects an estimated 2.6 percent adult U.S. population in any given year, as per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The increasing number of Americans being affected by the disorder makes it more imperative to find reliable solutions aimed at complete recovery.

Taking the first step toward recovery

People looking for recovery options usually tend to shy away from making new beginnings initially. Experts partly attribute it to the myth that mental illnesses are untreatable apart from the fear of stigma haunting their lives and families. Innovative treatment options at the Sovereign Health help patients embrace new chances at happiness. For more information about bipolar disorder treatment, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our representatives for expert advice to know about bipolar disorder diagnosis.

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