Brain Scans Might Identify Bipolar in Youth

Australian researchers were recently using MRI to view the brain activity of young people who were shown pictures of faces with a variety of expressions on them.

“We found that the young people who had a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder had reduced brain responses to emotive faces, particularly a fearful face. This is an extremely promising breakthrough,” study leader Philip Mitchell, of the University of New South Wales, said in a university news release.

The article over on US News Health says that the brain imaging technique may be used to identify young people who are at risk (genetically pre-disposed, etc.) but who do not yet have bipolar symptoms. By identifying the risk as soon as possible, intervention and treatment can begin much earlier.

There are more details in the article here, it is an interesting concept!

The thing that interests me the most about this breakthrough it what it means for young people, and what it might have meant for me if this technique was employed when I was a teenager.

I know many people have expressed that they almost wouldn’t want an early detection of bipolar disorder, and that living in something of an ignorant bliss before symptoms hit was a chance to live life to the fullest before things came to a grinding halt.

From my own experiences though, I can say that it would have been really beneficial for me to have known early on that bipolar disorder was something I was predisposed to, as my symptoms came on quite swiftly after being given an antidepressant (the wrong treatment) and I had to be hospitalized. Could that hospitalization have been prevented? With the technology and knowledge we have today, the answer is a potential yes. 

What do you think? Would you rather have known earlier that you were predisposed to bipolar disorder, or do you think it would have made a difference in your life and recovery?

3 responses to “Brain Scans Might Identify Bipolar in Youth

  1. That’s a good question. I don’t think I would have liked to hear it before I had some of the bigger symptoms – childhood is already rife with traps of insecurity. I can say though, that if I could go and visit eleven year old me, who was overwhelmed by the cycle of swelling then absence of emotions, I think it would make a huge difference to reassure him by telling him that he was normal, just suffering from a disease.

  2. I think I would have loved to have known. I always knew something was wrong, but no name could be put to it. Now I have children (which I may not have chosen to do if I had known about my bi-polar) and at least one of them worries me enough that I would like for him to be ruled out as well. In my estimation, no information is bad information…just tools to help make better decisions.

  3. Knowing at a young age would have helped me get treatment about 15 years earlier, so that would have been nice. Testing my daughter would have been beneficial, although when she developed significant symptoms we were ready because we already knew about the genetic predisposition. The testing results are probably a good thing, although some parents and doctors may rely too much on a positive test (similar to the overprescribing of Ritalin).

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