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Bipolar May Shrink Brain

small brainResearchers discover people with bipolar disorder — or manic depression — suffer from an accelerated shrinking of their brain.

The study shows for the first time that bipolar disorder — a condition characterized by periods of depression and periods of mania — is associated with a reduction in brain tissue and proves that the changes get progressively worse with each relapse.

This discovery has implications not only for the way we research the disease, but may also impact the way this condition is treated.
The University of Edinburgh study is published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry.

Scientists discovered the loss of grey matter tissue is concentrated in areas of the brain which control memory, face recognition and co-ordination – namely the hippocampus, fusiform and cerebellum respectively.

Dr. Andrew McIntosh, senior lecturer in psychiatry and lead researcher, said:

“For the first time, we have shown that as people with bipolar disorder get older, a small amount of tissue is lost in parts of the brain that are associated with memory and the coordination of thoughts and actions. The amount of brain tissue that’s lost is greater in people with multiple episodes of illness and is associated with a decline in some areas of mental ability.

“Although we do no yet know the cause of this brain shrinkage, it may be that repeated episodes of illness harm the brain and lead to the decline. Another possibility is that the brain changes are caused by stress or genetic factors, which tend to lead both to more frequent illness episodes and to greater brain loss. Further research will be required.”

Bipolar disorder, in its severe form, is a serious mental illness which affects around million worldwide. When people have mania they are typically elated, overactive and need less sleep. They may also suffer from delusions or hallucinations, and are at significant risk of suicide. Once someone has an episode of bipolar disorder, the condition tends to be life long.

Source: University of Edinburgh

Bipolar May Shrink Brain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Bipolar May Shrink Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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