Home » Bipolar Disorder » Technology to Aid in Differentiating Depression, Bipolar

Technology to Aid in Differentiating Depression, Bipolar

Technology to Aid Diagnosis of Depression, BipolarDespite significant advances in care for mental health disorders, a troubling factor is the amount of time it sometimes takes to establish a diagnosis.

Remarkably, some experts say it often takes six to 10 years to properly diagnose a mental health condition.

However, new research seeks to speed the process and end misdiagnosis by looking for a “biomarker” in the brain that will help diagnose and treat two commonly misdiagnosed disorders.

Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, a researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute and a psychiatrist at London Health Sciences Centre, is working to identify brain markers (biomarkers) for major depressive disorder (MDD), otherwise known as unipolar disorder, and bipolar disorder (BD).

Currently, diagnosis is made by patient observation and verbal history. Mistakes are not uncommon, and patients can find themselves going from doctor to doctor receiving improper diagnoses and prescribed medications to little effect.

Osuch examined youth who were diagnosed with either MDD or BD (15 patients in each group) and imaged their brains with an MRI to see if there was a region of the brain that corresponded with the bipolarity index (BI).

The BI is a diagnostic tool that encompasses varying degrees of bipolar disorder, identifying symptoms and behavior in order to place a patient on the spectrum.

What she found was the activation of the brain region called the putamen correlated positively with BD.

This is the region of the brain that controls motor skills, and has a strong link to reinforcement and reward and explains symptoms of bipolar disorder. “The identification of the putamen in our positive correlation may indicate a potential trait marker for the symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder,” said Osuch.

In order to reach this conclusion, the study approached mental health research from a different angle.

“The unique aspect of this research is that, instead of dividing the patients by psychiatric diagnoses of bipolar disorder and unipolar depression, we correlated their functional brain images with a measure of bipolarity which spans across a spectrum of diagnoses.” Osuch said.

“This approach can help to uncover a biomarker for bipolarity, independent of the current mood symptoms or mood state of the patient.”

In the future, Osuch said she will repeat the study with more patients, seeking to prove that the activation of the putamen is the start of a trend in large numbers of patients.

The hope is that one day there could be a definitive biological marker which could help differentiate the two disorders, leading to a faster diagnosis and optimal care.

Source: Lawson Health Research Institute

Abstract of the brain photo by shutterstock.

Technology to Aid in Differentiating Depression, Bipolar

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). Technology to Aid in Differentiating Depression, Bipolar. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 16 Aug 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.