Bipolar Disorder a Risk Factor for Parkinson’s?

THURSDAY, May 23, 2019 — Struggling with bipolar disorder is hard enough, but now a new study from Taiwan suggests these patients are seven times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

But U.S. experts cautioned that the absolute risk of developing Parkinson’s — an incurable movement disease — is still very low for those with the mood disorder.

“I wasn’t surprised [by the study’s findings], because similar disorders like major depression and anxiety disorder convey a similar increased risk of Parkinson’s later in life,” said Dr. Gregory Pontone, director of the Parkinson’s disease research center at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

“This gives you two reasons to treat bipolar disorder aggressively,” he added.

Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder marked by swings from elated, energized behavior to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It affects about 2.6% of American adults, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition causing tremors, rigid muscles and slowed movement, among other symptoms. By 2030, the Parkinson’s Foundation projects 1.2 million Americans will be living with the disease.

For the study, researchers led by Dr. Mu-Hong Chen of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, reviewed health records for 56,000 people in Taiwan who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder between 2001 and 2009. They were compared to 225,000 people with no history of bipolar or Parkinson’s. Both groups were tracked until late 2011.

During the study period, 372 people with bipolar disorder — or 0.7% — developed Parkinson’s. This compared to 222 — or 0.1% — of those who didn’t have bipolar disorder.

Those with bipolar who developed Parkinson’s were nine years younger — average age 64 — than others who also developed Parkinson’s, the study found.

“When you say there’s seven times the risk, it gets scary. But it’s still very few [bipolar] patients who get Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Justin Martello, who reviewed the findings. He’s a neurologist specializing in movement disorders and Parkinson’s disease at Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Del.

Martello pointed out that while the study was large, it was limited by including only people in Taiwan.

“We don’t know how this would apply more globally or broadly,” Martello said. “I think it’s more interesting for physicians to know this and be more aware of the association.”

The study was published online May 22 in the journal Neurology.

Pontone, who cowrote an accompanying editorial, and Martello said scientists have many theories — still unproven — about how bipolar disorder might be connected to the development of Parkinson’s.

“A depressive or manic episode may do something to the brain that renders it more vulnerable” to Parkinson’s over time, Pontone said.

And Martello noted that many medications used to treat bipolar disorder can trigger Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Many experts think Parkinson’s is active years or decades before movement problems show up, and mood disorders such as bipolar may actually be an early symptom of Parkinson’s, Pontone and Martello said.

Much more research is still needed, they agreed.

“We definitely need to look more at a global population,” Martello said. “The researchers here did follow patients for 10 years, but it needs to be extended longer to see how many of these patients convert to Parkinson’s down the road.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about bipolar disorder.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019 – Daily MedNews

Light Therapy May Help Some With Bipolar Disorder

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) — People afflicted with bipolar disorder may find some relief from depression with daily doses of light therapy, new research suggests.

With light therapy, people spend time sitting in close proximity to a light-emitting box — in this case, bright white light — with exposures increasing from 15 minutes per day to a full hour over a period of weeks.

The study found that within a month the therapy helped treat depression in people with bipolar disorder.

“Effective treatments for bipolar depression are very limited,” noted lead researcher Dr. Dorothy Sit.

“This gives us a new treatment option for bipolar patients that we know gets us a robust response within four to six weeks,” said Sit, who is associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University in Chicago.

According to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, bipolar disorder “is a brain and behavior disorder characterized by severe shifts in a person’s mood and energy, making it difficult for the person to function.” Over 5.7 million Americans are thought to have the disorder, which often involves depressive episodes.

As Sit’s team noted, prior research had shown that morning light therapy reduces symptoms of depression in people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition where winter’s reduced light spurs depression.

However, it’s also been noted that light therapy can sometimes cause side effects, such as mania, in people with bipolar disorder.

Still, the Northwestern team wondered if the treatment might not have a role for bipolar patients with at least moderate depression who were also taking a mood stabilizer drug.

In the study, 46 patients received either a 7,000 lux bright white light or a 50 lux light (acting as the “placebo arm” of the trial).

The study participants were told to place the light box about one foot from their face for 15 minutes between noon and 2:30 p.m. each day at the start of the study.

Over six weeks, the patients increased their light therapy “doses” in 15-minute increments until they reached a dose of 60 minutes per day — or had a significant change in their mood.


Compared with people in the placebo group, those in the treatment group were more likely to have significant improvements, Sit’s team said.

More than 68 percent of patients in the treatment group achieved a normal mood versus 22 percent of those in the placebo group, the findings showed. Patients in the treatment group also had a much lower average depression score than those in the placebo group, and significantly higher functioning, meaning they could return to work or complete household tasks they hadn’t been able to finish before treatment.

Significantly, none of the patients experienced mania or hypomania, a condition that includes a period of elation, euphoria, irritability, agitation, rapid speech, racing thoughts, a lack of focus and risk-taking behaviors.

“As clinicians, we need to find treatments that avoid these side effects and allow for a nice, stable response. Treatment with bright light at midday can provide this,” Sit said in a university news release.

Two psychiatrists agreed that the therapy may have merit for patients, who often have few options.

“No standard antidepressants are approved for treatment of bipolar depression,” said Dr. Seth Mandel, who directs psychiatry at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. He added that antipsychotics that are approved for bipolar disorder often come with side effects that cause many patients to stop using them.

Light therapy “offers us another option, one that certainly appears to do no harm,” Mandel said.

Still, he noted that patients with more severe symptoms weren’t included in the Chicago study, and he also believes many people won’t be able to adhere to the hour-long, daily dosage required.

Dr. Ami Baxi is a psychiatrist who directs adult inpatient services at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that light therapy may be “a welcome addition to our limited treatment options for bipolar depression.”

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and published Oct. 3 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

WebMD News from HealthDay


SOURCES: Seth Mandel, M.D., chairman of psychiatry, Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, Huntington, N.Y.; Ami Baxi, M.D., director of adult inpatient services, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Northwestern University, news release, Oct. 10, 2017

Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Heart Risks to Fetus From Bipolar Drug May Be Lower Than Thought

THURSDAY, June 8, 2017 — Lithium, a drug commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, is linked to an increased risk of heart malformations in babies born to women taking the drug during pregnancy. But new research says the risk is smaller than once believed.

In a study of more than 1 million pregnant women, researchers found that those who took lithium during the first trimester of pregnancy had a twofold increase in the risk of heart malformations compared to women who didn’t take the drug. That works out to about 1 additional case of heart problems per 100 births, the researchers said.

“This association was dose dependent,” said lead researcher Dr. Elisabetta Patorno, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The higher the dose of the drug, the greater the chance of heart malformations, the researchers said.

“The size of the association was substantially smaller than originally proposed by the International Register of Lithium Babies in the 1970s,” Patorno said.

These findings can help guide treatment decisions for pregnant women with bipolar disorder, she said.

“In light of this new information, clinicians and patients may decide to reconsider the balance between the relatively small increase in the risk of cardiac malformations and the comparative benefits of lithium versus other mood-stabilizing strategies in deciding whether or not to prescribe and use lithium in women of reproductive age or pregnant women,” Patorno said.

Women who take lithium shouldn’t discontinue their treatment while pregnant, she said.

Doctors need to discuss the benefits of lithium with their patients, as well as the relatively small increase in the risk of heart malformations linked to the drug. These risks and benefits need to be compared to other available alternative mood-stabilizing strategies, Patorno said.

“Women of childbearing age with bipolar disorder who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant should speak with their doctor to discuss what the best option is for them and their baby,” Patorno said.

The risks associated with lithium when used in early pregnancy have been known for many years, said Dr. Mitchell Kramer. He’s chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y.

“Some studies suggested a 400 percent increased risk for heart abnormalities among infants expose to lithium,” Kramer said. But this study found a much smaller risk.

“You still need to use judgment when you are thinking about keeping patients on lithium,” Kramer said.

“Some patients, if they don’t take lithium they really have major psycho-emotional disturbances,” he explained.

This study provides some comfort that patients who need lithium can stay on it during pregnancy, Kramer said.

“None of the other drugs are as effective as lithium,” he said. “There are patients, and I’ve had them, who don’t do well without lithium.”

Before this study, Kramer told patients who were taking lithium to stop taking it and get on another drug because of the risk to their baby.

“But now I would have a more open conversation about staying on the drug,” he said. “If your psychiatrist thinks you would have a major problem if you went off lithium, then it’s not unreasonable to stay on it.”

The new study included information on more than 1.3 million women enrolled in Medicaid. They gave birth between 2000 and 2010.

The researchers looked for incidents of infants exposed to lithium in the first trimester. They compared these babies with those exposed to lamotrigine (Lamictal), an anti-seizure drug also used to treat bipolar disorder.

The researchers found heart malformations in 16 of the 663 infants exposed to lithium (2.4 percent). Almost 2,000 babies were exposed to lamotrigine, and 27 of those babies (1.4 percent) had a heart malformation.

Just over 15,000 (1.2 percent) of the 1.3 million infants who weren’t exposed to either drug had a heart malformation.

The researchers also looked specifically for a heart problem known as Ebstein’s anomaly, which causes the upper chambers of the heart to develop abnormally. The prevalence of Ebstein’s anomaly was 0.6 percent among infants exposed to lithium, and less than 0.2 percent among unexposed infants, the researchers found.

The report was published June 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

More information

For more on infant heart defects, visit the March of Dimes.

Posted: June 2017 – Daily MedNews

Brain Scans May Shed Light on Bipolar Disorder-Suicide Risk

TUESDAY, Jan. 31, 2017 — Among teens and young adults with bipolar disorder, researchers have linked brain differences to an increased suicide risk.

About half of people with bipolar disorder — marked by extreme mood swings — attempt suicide and as many as one in five dies by suicide, the study authors said.

For the new study, teens and young adults with bipolar disorder underwent brain scans. Compared with those who had not attempted suicide, those who had attempted suicide had slightly less volume and activity in areas of the brain that regulate emotion and impulses, and in the white matter that connects those areas.

“The findings suggest that the frontal cortex is not working as well as it should to regulate the circuitry,” said study senior author Dr. Hilary Blumberg.

“That can lead to more extreme emotional pain, difficulties in generating alternate solutions to suicide and greater likelihood of acting on suicidal impulses,” she said.

Blumberg is a professor of psychiatric neuroscience, psychiatry, radiology and biomedical imaging at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

“Suicide is a leading cause of death of adolescents and young adults, and we can’t move on this issue fast enough,” she said in a university news release. “The identification of brain circuits involved in risk for suicide can lead to new ways to identify who is most at risk and, hopefully, prevent suicides.”

The study was published Jan. 31 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on bipolar disorder.

Posted: January 2017

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What Does Bipolar Mania Look and Feel Like?

By Kimberly Goad
WebMD Feature

Whether you have bipolar disorder or you know someone with the condition, you’ll want to be aware of the signs of mania — the extreme highs that can lead to big risks with money, sex, and even safety.

If you see these signs in a loved one who has bipolar disorder, let them know your concerns and encourage them to tell their doctor.

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Online Community

WebMD’s Bipolar Support Group Living with bipolar disorder? Share your tips on coping with heightened feelings of well-being and depression, as well as common medication and treatment options. Depressed & Bipolar Kids: Family Support Does your child suffer from depression or bipolar disorder? If so, you both need support from family and friends. Join other parents and family members here to discuss treatments and challenges of raising a child who has depression…

Read the Bipolar Disorder Online Community article > >

If you’re the one with the condition, and a family member or friend tells you that they’re concerned, listen to them and get help as soon as possible. It can be hard to see mania in yourself, and you may even like how it feels. But you need to get it under control for your own health.

Common signs include:


The first outward sign might be super-fast speech, so quick that anyone listening can’t get a word in edgewise.

“Someone who is normally more thoughtful and interactive suddenly becomes hyper-talkative, talking over you and not really giving you a chance to get into the conversation,” says Dean MacKinnon, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Inflated Ego

When someone is manic, they may say things that greatly exaggerate their abilities and sense of self-esteem.

For instance, they may think that “they are better at stuff — a better writer, a better artist — than people who are already accomplished in those things,” MacKinnon says. Or they may claim expertise that they don’t have.

Sleep Falls Apart

Mania can make someone cut way down on sleep or not sleep at all. They feel like they don’t need it. 

“People burst out of bed in the middle of the night full of energy ready to take on the day, or they stay up late into the night busy with projects or other sorts of stimulation,” MacKinnon says.

At first, they may seem to get away with it. “They function perfectly fine the next day on little sleep,” MacKinnon says.

But the longer someone is sleep-deprived, the worse their bipolar symptoms become.

WebMD Health

Lithium Beats Newer Meds for Bipolar Disorder, Study Finds

THURSDAY May 12, 2016, 2016 — Lithium outperforms newer mood stabilizers in the treatment of bipolar disorder, a new study has found.

Patients taking lithium had lower rates of self-harm and unintentional injury compared to those taking other bipolar drugs, such as valproate (Depacon, Depakote), olanzapine (Zyprexa) or quetiapine (Seroquel), said lead researcher Joseph Hayes. He is a fellow of psychiatry at University College London.

“This is important because people with bipolar disorder are 15 times more likely to die by suicide and six times more likely to die by accidental injury than the general population,” Hayes explained.

People taking one of the alternative mood stabilizers were 40 percent more likely to harm themselves compared to patients on lithium, Hayes and his colleagues found.

And people on valproate or quetiapine were 32 percent to 34 percent more likely to fall victim to unintentional injury, most likely while experiencing a manic episode, the researchers said.

“Lithium still is the gold standard for the treatment of bipolar. We really haven’t had a medication that surpasses lithium, as far as we know,” said Dr. Raphael Braga. He is physician-in-charge of the Center for Treatment and Research of Bipolar Disorder at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., and was not involved with the study.

Hayes noted that lithium has been used for more than half a century to treat bipolar disorder, but it’s still not clear how the drug stabilizes a person’s mood.

Bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, is characterized by extreme mood swings ranging from emotional highs to depressive lows.

The researchers undertook their study following evidence reviews and studies that suggested lithium might be better than newer medications at preventing suicide and self-harm.

These studies have contended that lithium achieves these results by reducing symptoms such as depression, aggression, risk-taking and impulsive behavior, according to background notes in the study.

Lithium can be hard on the body, the study authors said, increasing a person’s risk of kidney and thyroid disease, but even that may have a positive side in bipolar patients. Because patients must be closely monitored for side effects, they are in more frequent contact with doctors who can pick up on emotional problems that lead to suicide, the researchers contend.

To compare lithium against newer medications, Hayes and his colleagues collected medical data on nearly 6,700 people diagnosed as bipolar and prescribed only one of the drugs — lithium, valproate, olanzapine or quetiapine.

The investigators found that people on lithium were less likely to harm themselves, either intentionally or by accident.

The suicide rate was lower in the lithium group, but too few suicides occurred to allow accurate risk estimates, the study authors said.

The findings were published online May 11 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Lithium can cause kidney disease and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), Braga and Hayes said.

Doctors need to carefully weigh benefits versus harm when prescribing lithium to people with kidney or thyroid problems, and “if these are severe, it should be avoided,” Hayes said. “Lithium [also] needs to be reviewed on an individual patient basis before pregnancy.”

Braga said psychiatrists often require patients taking lithium to undergo lab tests every three to six months, to make sure their kidney function hasn’t been compromised.

Even with this, lithium is much cheaper than the other medications in the study, Braga said. Hayes noted a 2008 study that found lithium was nearly $ 500 cheaper per month compared with olanzapine.

“Lithium is a great drug,” Braga said. “It’s definitely a drug every clinician should think about when prescribing for bipolar disorder.”

More information

For more on lithium, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Posted: May 2016

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Many Bipolar Patients Take Multiple Psychiatric Meds

FRIDAY Feb. 7, 2014, 2014 — Many people with bipolar disorder take multiple medications to manage the symptoms, which can be extremely challenging, a new study reveals.

Researchers looked at 230 patients with bipolar disorder who were admitted to a Rhode Island psychiatric hospital in 2010. They found that more than half of patients were taking three or more psychiatric medications and 36 percent were taking four or more. About 20 percent weren’t taking any psychiatric medications.

Women were more likely than men to be taking four or more psychiatric drugs, a situation called “complex polypharmacy.” Women accounted for 58 percent of the patients in the study but for 68 percent of those with complex polypharmacy.

In addition, women were more likely to be taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and stimulants, all of which are controversial treatments for bipolar disorder, said study lead author Lauren Weinstock, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Including prescriptions for other health problems, the patients were taking an average of six different drugs, according to the study published online Feb. 1 in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Having so many medications can lead to unknown interactions, make it difficult for patients to take them as prescribed, and lead to high costs for patients and the health care system, the researchers noted.

“The high rate of complex polypharmacy reflects the enormous challenge of symptom management that we currently face for bipolar disorder,” Weinstock said in a university news release.

“Without many treatment alternatives, this is where we are as a field. It is important for us to advance science and treatment of bipolar disorder so that this medication burden can be minimized for our patients,” she said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about bipolar disorder.

Posted: February 2014

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Bipolar Disorder Drugs May ‘Tweak’ Genes Affecting Brain

THURSDAY April 25, 2013 — Medications taken by people with bipolar disorder may actually be nudging hundreds of genes that direct the brain to behave more normally, according to new research.

The study suggests that antipsychotic drugs activate a wide range of genes, changing their function, said lead author Dr. Melvin McInnis.

“A gene’s activity in any given cell will vary depending on what it’s exposed to,” said McInnis, a professor of bipolar disorder and depression at the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

It’s not often that scientists stumble upon something in research that they totally weren’t expecting to see. “It was a major surprise to us that people treated with an antipsychotic [medication] had changes in the gene expression pattern,” McInnis said.

The findings could help point the way to new gene-targeted and stem cell therapies, and provide valuable insight into what causes manic-depressive mood swings, he added.

However, a genetics expert not connected to the study was more cautious about drawing implications from its findings.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, affects about 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population aged 18 and older, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The brain disorder causes severe and unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out routine daily tasks.

The new research, published in a recent issue of the journal Bipolar Disorders, involved examining 26 brains donated to a nonprofit brain bank. Fourteen of the brains were from people who had bipolar disorder. Of those, seven were from people who had been taking one or more antipsychotic medications — such as clozapine, risperidone and haloperidol — when they died. Twelve brains were from those with no mental health condition.

In comparing the brains, the scientists observed that the genes of those that had been exposed to antipsychotics at the time of death or during their lifetime were similar to those from people who did not have bipolar disorder. This suggests that the drugs may normalize or suppress the kinds of brain pathology one would expect in bipolar disorder, according to the researchers.

The study also supports the idea that the ability of brain cells to effectively communicate with each other may be impaired in people with bipolar disorder. The researchers found that the brains of people who were taking antipsychotics and those who did not have bipolar disorder showed striking similarities in how their brains relayed signals between cell gaps, or synapses, and on high-speed neuronal “freeways” called the nodes of Ranvier.

While antipsychotic medications can often be effective in moderating the effects of bipolar disorder, the side effects are often difficult for people to deal with. These include metabolic syndrome — a combination of symptoms that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes — as well as weight gain, increased blood sugar levels, and tremors, McInnis said.

However, one expert expressed some concerns about the study.

“It’s still not known if these changes just happen to occur or play a key role in the therapeutic effect,” said Dr. Francis McMahon, chief of the human genetics branch at the NIMH Intramural Research Program.

McMahon also noted that the researchers don’t have data on what medications the brains were exposed to during their lifetimes. “Patients [with bipolar disorder] are exposed to antidepressants, drugs of abuse, and other medications, and we don’t have medication exposure data on the brains [of the people without bipolar disorder].”

For his part, study author McInnis said the research represents a step toward a radical evolution in the design of drugs for psychiatric conditions by the pharmaceutical industry.

“A lot of these psychiatric illnesses fluctuate, but now we give medications at a constant rate, almost as if we were giving a diabetic the same amount of insulin no matter what the person’s blood sugar is,” McInnis said. “Medications as we know them will change based on our understanding of the biological mechanisms behind disease.”

More information

Learn more about bipolar disorder from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Posted: April 2013

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Marijuana Linked To Better Brain Function In Bipolar Patients

Results from a new study show indicate that bipolar patients with a history of marijuana use have better neurocognitive function than those who have never used cannabis.

The team, from The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, found that patients with bipolar I (BD I) disorder who used marijuana performed better on tests of attention, processing speed, and working memory than other BD 1 patients, reports Mark Cowen at News Medical.

“These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders,” said lead researcher Raphael Braga.

“However, it is also possible that these findings may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs,” Braga said.

In other words, it’s possible, at least according to Braga, that the higher-functioning patients self-selected due to the challenge of finding weed.

The results came from a study of 200 BD I patients, 50 of whom used cannabis, or, in the medical parlance, under which almost everything seems to be pathologized as a “disorder,” “Cannabis Use Disorder,” or, as they cutely call it, “CUD.” (Sigh…)

All of the patients participating in the study underwent clinical evaluations and completed a battery of tests measuring neurocognitive functioning.

There were no significant differences between patients who used cannabis (“suffered from CUD”) and those who didn’t, regarding age, race, or education, the researchers wrote in Psychiatry Research.

But, according to the researchers, patients with “Cannabis Use Disorder” were more likely to have a history of psychosis than those who didn’t toke up, at 82 percent versus 67.3 percent.

But patients “with CUD” (dammit, I mean pot smokers) had significantly better attention, processing speed/set-shifting, and working memory than those without, putting the lie to the tired old stereotypes of “burnouts” and “stoners.”

“These analyses indicate an interesting pattern suggesting superior neurocognitive performance among bipolar patients with comorbid CUD when compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use,” Braga and team concluded. “Moreover, this cognitive advantage is noted in spite of evidence of a more severe clinical course.”

“We hope that the results from this study will help guide and encourage future large studies and help further elucidate the multifaceted associations and possible impact of cannabis use in bipolar disorder,” the researchers wrote.

More links from around the web!

Toke of the Town

Bipolar Kids May Focus on Different Facial Features

THURSDAY Nov. 17, 2011 — Children with bipolar disorder and a similar condition called severe mood dysregulation spend less time looking at the eyes when trying to identify facial features, compared to children without the psychiatric disorders, researchers say.

This new study finding may help explain why children with bipolar disorder and severe mood dysregulation have difficulty determining other people’s emotional expressions, said the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health investigators.

The researchers tracked the eye movements of children with and without psychiatric disorders as they viewed faces with different emotional expressions, such as happy, sad, fearful and angry. In general, the children spent more time looking at the eyes, the facial feature that conveys the most information about emotion.

However, children with bipolar disorder and severe mood dysregulation paid less attention to the eyes and more attention to the noses and mouths of the faces.

The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.

“In combination with other studies, our findings indicate the potential value of treatment programs that teach children how to identify emotions by looking at others’ eyes,” study author Pilyoung Kim said in a society news release.

“If such training helps children to process the emotional information in their world more accurately, that may in turn increase their ability to regulate their emotional reactions to social situations,” Kim added.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about bipolar disorder in children and teens.

Posted: November 2011

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