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Science News About Bipolar Disorder

Brain’s Alertness Circuitry Conserved Through Evolution

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Using a molecular method likely to become widely adopted by the field, researchers have discovered brain circuitry essential for alertness – and for brain states more generally.

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Mood Stabilizing Medications an Effective Option for Older Adults with Bipolar Disorder

Science Update

Two standard medications for bipolar disorder were effective in controlling symptoms at doses tailored to older people in a clinical trial of treatment in adults over age 60.

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Coping With Familial Mental Illness in Stressful Times

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“An NIH/NIMH lifer” reveals how his Asian American family successfully coped with severe mental illness compounded by discrimination.

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Symptoms Outdo Diagnoses in Predicting Bipolar Disorder in At-Risk Youth

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Three types of symptoms emerged as powerful predictors of whether a youth with one parent with bipolar disorder will go on to develop the disorder, according to a new NIMH-funded study of 391 at-risk youth.

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Genome-Wide Study Yields Markers of Lithium Response

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Genome-Wide Study Yields Markers of Lithium Response

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Biomarkers Outperform Symptoms in Parsing Psychosis Subgroups

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Three biomarker-based categories, called “biotypes,” outperformed traditional diagnoses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with psychosis, in sorting psychosis cases into distinct subgroups on the basis of brain biology

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Disorders Share Risk Gene Pathways for Immune, Epigenetic Regulation

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Risk genes for different mental disorders work through same pathways

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Rapid Agent Restores Pleasure-seeking Ahead of Other Antidepressant Action

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A drug being studied as a fast-acting mood-lifter restored pleasure-seeking behavior independent of – and ahead of – its other antidepressant effects.

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Suspect Gene Corrupts Neural Connections

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Researchers have shown in patients’ cells how a rare mutation in a suspect gene disrupts the expression of dozens of other genes underlying neural connections.

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Brain Region Singled Out for Social Memory, Possible Therapeutic Target for Select Brain Disorders

Science Update

The hippocampus houses learning and memory—specifically the storage of knowledge of who, what, where, and when. Using a special transgenic mouse, researchers have now pinpointed a hippocampal region called CA2 that is important for social memory, the ability of animal to recognize another of the same species. Understanding this region could be useful in understanding and treating disorders characterized by altered social behaviors such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.

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New Data Reveal Extent of Genetic Overlap Between Major Mental Disorders

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The largest genome-wide study of its kind has determined how much five major mental illnesses are traceable to the same common inherited genetic variations.

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Ketamine Cousin Rapidly Lifts Depression Without Side Effects

Science Update

NMDA or glutamate receptor modulators as antidepressants have come of age. Human clinical studies demonstrated that ketamine can ward off depressive symptoms within 2 hours of administration and last for several days. Yet serious side effects are attached to this drug, including excessive sleepiness, hallucinations, and substance abuse behavior.

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Flu in Pregnancy May Quadruple Child’s Risk for Bipolar Disorder

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Pregnant mothers’ exposure to the flu has been linked to a nearly 4-fold increased risk for bipolar disorder in their adult child.

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NIH Study Shows People with Serious Mental Illnesses Can Lose Weight

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Losing weight is challenging for everyone. It can be particularly difficult for someone with a serious mental illness. An NIMH-funded clinical study proves that a modified diet and exercise program can work for people with serious mental illnesses. Participants lost 7 pounds more than controls—and continued to lose weight.

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Five Major Mental Disorders Share Genetic Roots

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Five major mental disorders share some of the same genetic risk factors, the largest genome-wide study of its kind has found.

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Rate of Bipolar Symptoms Among Teens Approaches That of Adults

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National survey data finds that the rate of bipolar symptoms in teens is similar to that found in adults, indicating that bipolar disorder often begins in adolescence.

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Pattern Recognition Technology May Help Predict Future Mental Illness in Teens

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Computer programs that automatically spot patterns in data may help predict a person’s risk for future mental disorders.

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Gene Regulator in Brain’s Executive Hub Tracked Across Lifespan – NIH study

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For the first time, scientists have tracked the activity, across the lifespan, of an environmentally responsive regulatory mechanism that turns genes on and off in the brain’s executive hub. Among key findings of the study by National Institutes of Health scientists: genes implicated in schizophrenia and autism turn out to be members of a select club of genes in which regulatory activity peaks during an environmentally-sensitive critical period in development.

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Atypical Antipsychotic More Effective than Older Drugs in Treating Childhood Mania, but Side Effects Can Be Serious

Science Update

The antipsychotic medication risperidone is more effective for initial treatment of mania in children diagnosed with bipolar disorder compared to other mood stabilizing medications, but it carries the potential for serious metabolic side effects, according to an NIMH-funded study published online ahead of print January 2, 2012, in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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International Impact of Bipolar Disorder Highlights Need for Recognition and Better Treatment Availability

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The severity and impact of bipolar disorder and bipolar-like symptoms are similar across international boundaries, according to a study partially funded by NIMH.

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Most Children with Rapidly Shifting Moods Don’t Have Bipolar Disorder

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Relatively few children with rapidly shifting moods and high energy have bipolar disorder, though such symptoms are commonly associated with the disorder. Instead, most of these children have other types of mental disorders, according to an NIMH-funded study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on October 5, 2010.

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Rapid Antidepressant Works by Boosting Brain’s Connections

Science Update

An experimental drug that lifts depression in hours likely works by rapidly stimulating connections between brain cells, a study in rats has revealed. The drug, called ketamine, quickly generated such synapses in a brain circuit implicated in human depression by triggering a key enzyme.

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Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder May Go Undiagnosed in Some Adults with Major Depression

Science Update

Nearly 40 percent of people with major depression may also have subthreshold hypomania, a form of mania that does not fully meet current diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, according to a new NIMH-funded study. The study was published online ahead of print August 15, 2010, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Experimental Medication Lifts Depression Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder Within an Hour

Science Update

People with treatment-resistant bipolar disorder experienced relief from symptoms of depression in as little as 40 minutes after an intravenous dose of the anesthetic medication ketamine in a preliminary study; while the patient group was small, this work adds to evidence that compounds in the class to which ketamine belongs have potential as rapid and effective medications for depression, including bipolar depression.

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Imaging Studies Help Pinpoint Child Bipolar Circuitry

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A series of imaging studies are revealing that the brain works differently in youth with bipolar disorder (BD) than in chronically irritable children who are often diagnosed with pediatric BD.

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Genes and Circuitry, Not Just Clinical Observation, to Guide Classification for Research

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NIMH is launching a long-term project aimed at ultimately improving treatment and prevention by studying classification of mental illness, based on genetics and neuroscience in addition to clinical observation. The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project is not intended to replace psychiatry’s existing diagnostic system for practitioners and will proceed in an independent direction, said Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., Director of the NIMH Division of Adult Translational Research, who is directing the effort. By taking a fresh look – without preconceived categories – the project aims to improve the validity of classification for researchers.

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Same Genes Suspected in Both Depression and Bipolar Illness

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Researchers, for the first time, have pinpointed a genetic hotspot that confers risk for both bipolar disorder and depression. People with either of these mood disorders were significantly more likely to have risk versions of genes at this site than healthy controls. One of the genes, which codes for part of a cell’s machinery that tells genes when to turn on and off, was also found to be over-expressed in the executive hub of bipolar patients’ brains, making it a prime suspect. The results add to mounting evidence that major mental disorders overlap at the molecular level.

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Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Share Genetic Roots

Press Release

A trio of genome-wide studies – collectively the largest to date – has pinpointed a vast array of genetic variation that cumulatively may account for at least one third of the genetic risk for schizophrenia. One of the studies traced schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in part, to the same chromosomal neighborhoods.

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Symptoms Persist as Bipolar Children Grow Up

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Bipolar disorder (BD) identified in childhood often persisted into adulthood in the first large follow-up study of its kind.

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New Study to Evaluate Ways to Control Metabolic Side Effects of Antipsychotics

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A new NIMH-funded grant will examine ways to control the metabolic side effects associated with the use of the newer atypical antipsychotic medications in children with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

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Family-Focused Therapy Effective in Treating Depressive Episodes of Bipolar Youth

Science Update

Adolescents with bipolar disorder who received a nine-month course of family-focused therapy (FFT) recovered more quickly from depressive episodes and stayed free of depression for longer periods than a control group, according to an NIMH-funded study published September 2008 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Largest Study of Its Kind Implicates Gene Abnormalities in Bipolar Disorder

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The largest genetic analysis of its kind to date for bipolar disorder has implicated machinery involved in the balance of sodium and calcium in brain cells.

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Mice Expressing Human Genes Bred to Help Unravel Mental Disorders

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New mouse strains engineered to express human genes related to mental disorders are being developed under a recently-launched grant program from NIMH’s Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science.

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Potential New Target Found for Developing Medications to Treat Bipolar Disorder

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Medications that target the protein BAG1, which regulates a process that can trigger symptoms in people who have bipolar disorder, may offer a new way of treating the disease, according to NIMH scientists.

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New NIMH Research to Test Innovative Treatments for Children with ADHD

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Two new grants funded by NIMH will focus on novel and innovative approaches to treating children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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Imaging Identifies Brain Regions and Chemicals Underlying Mood Disorders; May Lead to Better Treatments

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 6 — Recently developed imaging techniques allow the mapping of the brain circuits and chemical systems believed responsible for a range of mood abnormalities including depression and bipolar disorder, and hold promise for improved treatments, scientists say.

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Bipolar Youths’ Misreading of Faces May be Risk Marker for Illness

Science Update

Youngsters with pediatric bipolar disorder and healthy peers who have first-degree relatives with bipolar disorder share the same difficulty labeling facial emotions, NIMH researchers have discovered. Reporting in the February 2008 online edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the scientists suggest that the facial emotion recognition impairment might be part of an inherited predisposition to the illness.

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Tomorrow’s Antidepressants: Skip the Serotonin Boost?

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New research adds to evidence of potentially better molecular targets in the brain to treat depression and other mental disorders, according to NIMH-funded scientists.

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Faster-Acting Medications for Bipolar Disorder’s Manic Phase May Be Feasible

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Scientists may be able to develop faster-acting medications for the manic phase of bipolar disorder, new research shows.

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Mood Disorders Predict Later Substance Abuse Problems

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People with manic symptoms and bipolar disorder type II are at significant risk of later developing an alcohol abuse or dependence problem, a long-term study conducted in Switzerland confirms. The study was published in the January 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database May Aid Search for Related Genes

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Early findings from the recently launched Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database were published in the August 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Manic Phase of Bipolar Disorder Benefits from Breast Cancer Medication

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The medication tamoxifen, best known as a treatment for breast cancer, dramatically reduces symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder more quickly than many standard medications for the mental illness, a new study shows.

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Rates of Bipolar Diagnosis in Youth Rapidly Climbing, Treatment Patterns Similar to Adults

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The number of visits to a doctors office that resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents has increased by 40 times over the last decade, reported researchers funded in part by the NIH.

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Studies Refine Understanding of Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

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Two new studies provide additional details on best practices for treating people with bipolar disorder, a sometimes debilitating illness marked by severe mood swings between depression and mania.

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Bipolar Youth Show Distinct Pattern of Brain Development

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The first picturess of the brain changing before-and-after the onset of pediatric bipolar disorder reveal a distinct pattern of development, when compared to that seen in healthy youth or in childhood onset schizophrenia.

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Parents’ Diagnoses Help to Distinguish Childhood Bipolar Disorder from Severe Mood Dysregulation

Science Update

The parents of children who have bipolar disorder are more likely to have bipolar disorder themselves than the parents of children who have severe mood dysregulation (SMD).

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NIMH Funds Research for Early Intervention in Childhood Bipolar Disorder

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NIMH recently approved funding to test the effectiveness of an early intervention in children at high risk for developing bipolar disorder.

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Genetic Roots of Bipolar Disorder Revealed by First Genome-Wide Study of Illness

Press Release

The likelihood of developing bipolar disorder depends in part on the combined, small effects of variations in many different genes in the brain, none of which is powerful enough to cause the disease by itself, a new study shows.

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Bipolar Spectrum Disorder May Be Underrecognized and Improperly Treated

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A new study supports earlier estimates of the prevalence of bipolar disorder in the U.S. population, and suggests the illness may be more accurately characterized as a spectrum disorder.

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Gene Knockout Unleashes Manic Mouse

Science Update

Mice engineered to lack a specific gene showed behaviors similar to human mania in a study funded in part by NIMH; they were hyperactive, slept less, appeared less depressed and anxious, and craved sugar, cocaine and pleasure stimulation.

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Intensive Psychotherapy More Effective Than Brief Therapy for Treating Bipolar Depression

Press Release

Patients taking medications to treat bipolar disorder are more likely to get well faster and stay well if they receive intensive psychotherapy, according to results from the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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Study Sheds Light on Medication Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

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For depressed people with bipolar disorder who are taking a mood stabilizer, adding an antidepressant medication is no more effective than a placebo (sugar pill), according to results published online on March 28, 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Extreme Irritability: Is It Childhood Bipolar Disorder?

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Results of a new study may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of two debilitating childhood mental disorders — pediatric bipolar disorder (BD) and a syndrome called severe mood dysregulation (SMD).

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Different Families, Different Characteristics — Different Kinds of Bipolar Disorder?

Science Update

People with bipolar disorder (BPD) tend to share similarities in certain characteristics with other members of their families, NIMH-funded researchers have shown.

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