New Evidence May Lead to Early Detection of Bipolar

Until recently, bipolar is usually detected by family members. People with bipolar will often exhibit irrational behavior and violent mood swings that can cause disruption in family life. Often times, those with bipolar do not recognize the symptoms and only seek treatment when in very depressive states, or when urged by those around them. However, new research may be able to indicate if a person is at risk for developing bipolar. According to a study led by Michèle Wessa, Ph.D., of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany, there may be indications of abnormalities in the brains of those who are predisposed to bipolar.

“Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed or tardily detected, leading to inadequate treatment and devastating consequences,” Michèle Wessa and her team. “The identification of objective biomarkers, such as functional and structural brain abnormalities, of bipolar disorder might improve diagnosis and help elucidate its pathophysiology.” In order to make that determination, the researchers examined several different studies conducted on people with bipolar versus those without mental health challenges. They reviewed MRI’s and other imaging data to determine if there were any significant variances in brain structure. The results revealed that those with bipolar had less gray matter in specific regions of the brain that are responsible for emotional balance and regulation.

Additionally, these same people had an increased level of brain activity in the amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus, the area of the brain that is responsible for emotional response. “These results support and refine previously proposed neurobiological models of the disorder and suggest that an imbalance between cortical-cognitive and limbic brain networks may serve as a neurobiological marker of bipolar disorder,” Wessa said. The team hopes that these new findings will allow for further research that could provide earlier interventions for those who are at risk for developing bipolar.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Mike


    May 7th, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    How easy is this kind of testing to come by? I would think that if it is that good of an indicator of whether or not someone is bipolar then it would be important to make that kind of testing very available. But I do wonder about the cost of that and how you make that something that is feasible for the general population.

  • Catherine Simmons

    Catherine Simmons

    May 7th, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    This certainly seems like it would be an excellent way to confirm diagnosis.

    Given the plasticity of the brain, it would be interesting to results before and after periods of stress.

    Also cumulative changes after episodes of mania or depression.

  • Jayna


    May 8th, 2011 at 4:58 AM

    Why is it that people who are bipolar typically only seek help when they are depressed and not in the up and manic state? can’t they recognize that being that manic could also mean that something is wrong? Or that their family members would not see that something was wrong?

  • Katie


    May 9th, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    New evidence in diagnosing leads to the chance that a diagnosis can be made earlier in life. We all know that this can be of serious benefit for those families who have to deal with this illness in their lives.

  • luke c

    luke c

    May 9th, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    depending upon family members and others around you to recognize the problem in you seems like a bad thing…and if the situation is bad and there are problems in the house then irrational behavior will not seem so irrational after all…

  • Susan


    June 15th, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Jayna – If only it was that simple. The beginning of a manic episode is exhilarating. You are on top of the world, on top of your game. Many times the people around you think this is actually the ‘normal’ side of you because you are so outgoing, sociable, getting things done, and doing everything and not laid up in bed. The problem arises when you remain in this episode for any length of time. I’ll use myself as explanation. If I don’t take one of my mood stabilizers I will literally stay awake for days. I can even take a couple of sleeping pills and still not be able to sleep. When I try to close my eyes – it’s like they are having convulsions. I’m sure you are aware of what sleep deprivation can do to you. From the lack of sleep you begin to get irritable and make snap decisions (some which have terrible consequences). People who are not properly medicated will naturally look for some way to self medicate ultimately leading to an addiction.

    My first trip to a psychiatrist was towards the end (only ended because I started medicine) of a manic episode during which I completely remodeled the 2nd floor of my house by myself in three months time – including painting, trim, floor, texturing walls, wainscoating, etc. It was great getting the house redone, but I was exhausted by that time and knew I had to get some rest some how. I called 6 different doctors before I found one that would see me sooner than 6 months out. I was parked outside of MHMR crying because they had turned me away when that doctor called and said come in today. There just isn’t enough education out there about what bipolar is and what it is like. Commercials by pharmaceutical companies aren’t the answer. Sorry for rambling. This has become one of my life passions….

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