Mania is usually one of the primary symptoms of bipolar. Although bipolar and schizophrenia are considered different mental health problems, some believe that the two actually overlap and should be part of the same spectrum. Similarities between the two include psychosis, memory impairment, distorted emotional regulation, and poor judgment.
But few studies have compared the neurological differences between the two conditions in their earliest stages to see if they could provide early identification of illness and risk for future psychosis or mania. To address this issue, Anqi Qui of the Department of Bioengineering at the National University of Singapore recently led a study involving 28 individuals with their first onset episode of mania (FEM), 28 with their first onset episode of schizophrenia (FES), and 28 nonclinical control participants.
Qui used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the cortical thickness of the participant,s as well as the shape of their amygdala and hippocampus. The results revealed that the FES participants had deformities in their hippocampal regions and right amygdala compared to FEM participants and controls. They also had high levels of cortical thinning, although the FEM participants also had cortical thinning compared to the control participants.
The amygdala is involved in decision making, emotional perception, and memory. Although more impaired in the FES participants, the amygdala region was slightly impaired in the FEM participants as well. This suggests that this impairment exists in both schizophrenia and bipolar mania.
Abnormalities to the hippocampus, however, were only evident in the FES participants. Because this region is involved in memory and recall, Qui believes this reduction in hippocampal volume could be responsible for memory issues in schizophrenia. These findings clearly show that even though mania and schizophrenia share some similarities, there are unique neurological differences evident at the very first phases of the conditions that could allow for early diagnosis and intervention. Qui added, “This highlights the need to better understand these biological changes over time with the potential to identify cerebral markers of illness onset, progression, and also treatment targets.”
Qiu, A., et al. (2013). Amygdala-hippocampal shape and cortical thickness abnormalities in first-episode schizophrenia and mania. Psychological Medicine 43.7 (2013): 1353-63. ProQuest. Web.
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