In a recent study from Yale School of Medicine, adolescents with bipolar disorder have visible differences in both their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making, and the insula, which is the part of the brain involved in emotion and self-awareness (Wisegeek.com).
By using Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) scans the scientists scanned the brains of 37 adolescents with bipolar disorder and 35 adolescents without the disorder over a period of two years. They found that the amount of gray matter in the teens with bipolar disorder was higher than anticipated. They also found that the teens with bipolar disorder had a decrease in volume on the right insula and frontal cortex (Psychcentral.com).
Gray matter in the brain is made up of specialized neurons that can send neural impulses at a much faster rate than white matter (NewsMedical.net). Bipolar disorder often first appears in adolescence and is marked by severe shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. In normal development, healthy individuals tend to lose gray matter, and increase the amount of white matter. During this study, it showed that the adolescence with bipolar disorder lost even more gray matter and had little to no increase in white matter.
These changes suggest that brain circuits that regulate emotions develop differently in teenagers with bipolar disorder (Psychcentral.com).
“In adolescence, the brain is very plastic so the hope is that one day we can develop interventions to prevent the development of bipolar disorder,” said senior author Dr. Hilary Blumberg, professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology at the Yale Child Study Center.
About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator
Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank, and YWCA. Since becoming Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation in April 2014, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, the Metro Area LOSS Team, and is helping lead a community-wide health improvement initiative with the Douglas County Health Department called, “Just Reach Out,” which is focused on improving the people’s view on mental and behavioral health treatment.