Home » Bipolar Disorder » Bipolar Meds Can Help Brain Restore Normal Function
Bipolar Meds Can Help Brain Restore Normal Function

Bipolar Meds Can Help Brain Restore Normal Function

A new review explores the evidence to determine if common medications for bipolar disorder help to restore the brain to a more normative state.

Researchers note that advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) acquisition and analyses over the last two decades have enabled the identification of neuroanatomical abnormalities in a range of mental disorders.

In the review, researchers looked at how lithium, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medication, and antidepressant medications affect the brain of those with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder causes substantial suffering and disability, but most patients can be successfully treated with mood stabilizing medication, such as lithium or valproate, and with antipsychotic or antidepressant medication during episodes of illness exacerbation.

MRI studies comparing patients with bipolar disorder and healthy volunteers have demonstrated subtle grey matter volume deficits in patients, especially in brain regions underpinning mood regulation. Prior studies also suggest bipolar is associated with white matter disorganization in tracts interconnecting distributed brain regions.

However, researchers note that many studies present considerable diversity in their findings.

Therefore, investigators reviewed studies that included in vivo neuroanatomical imaging of the brain during bipolar interventions. They observed that different uses of psychopharmacological treatment was associated with alterations in neuroanatomy and thus an important source of this heterogeneity.

Investigators discovered that among the larger sample size and more powerful studies, or in those that accounted for individual variation, bipolar medications appear to help restore brain anatomy to a more normative state.

This includes evidence that use of mood stabilizers such as lithium is associated with increased grey matter volume especially in brain regions underpinning mood regulation, as well as normalization of white matter disconnectivity.

This generally restorative effect of mood stabilizers on brain anatomy mirrors similar findings for brain physiology identified by functional neuroimaging studies.

Source: Bentham Science Publishers/EurekAlert

Bipolar Meds Can Help Brain Restore Normal Function

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 Meds Can Help Brain Restore Normal Function. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Feb 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.