Tag Archives: bipolar research

Low-Field Magnetic Stimulation May Provide Immediate Relief of Depression

As someone who has recently been looking into treatment options like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), I was excited to see a few new articles (like the one here at the Harvard Gazette) outlining a new, similar treatment with even better results!

While many people consider ECT and TMS treatments to be the most effective treatment available for severe depressive and bipolar episodes (including those with treatment resistant symptoms like mine) there are still drawbacks, and one of the major ones is the period of time after treatments have begun before improvement begins taking place.

Medications (like antidepressants) can often take 4-6 weeks to begin alleviating symptoms of depression, and treatments like TMS and ECT are also not expected to bestow an immediate sense of relief to those who are often experiencing symptoms severe enough to warrant such treatment.

This, however, is where new research (led by researcher Michael Rohan, a physicist at the brain imaging center at Harvard Medical School) has discovered a form of treatment using magnetic fields at a much lower strength than TMS or ECT but at a much higher frequency. The “low-field magnetic stimulation” (LFMS) produces a potential treatment option that appears to have an almost immediate effect of relieving symptoms of depression in severely depressed patients.

While more research needs to be done, the implications could be phenomenal. The ability to provide relief to severely depressed (and potentially suicidal) patients in the ER alone would be hugely beneficial, and as someone who has experienced the sort of long, sprawling, torturous depression that has landed me in the hospital more than once, I can’t even begin to imagine how my life might be different if those symptoms could be relieved before a suicide attempt or a hospitalization!

You can find a more in-depth article outlining the recent study at the Harvard Gazette website here.

Study Suggests Link Between Migraine and Bipolar Disorder

As someone who experiences both migraines and bipolar disorder, I was not particularly surprised to hear that a new study is suggesting a link between the two.

The study conducted at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center found that migraines were more likely among those with bipolar disorder than the general public. To top it off, these folks are also more at risk for worsened psychosocial functioning, more severe depression, and an earlier onset of bipolar symptoms.

Findings also suggested that women are more likely to have both migraines and bipolar disorder compared to men, and those that have been subject to abuse (emotional or sexual) or emotional neglect were much more likely to have both problems.

The article closes with a statement suggesting;

“Some patients have more stable moods when their migraines are well-controlled.”

Personally, I have found this has certainly rang true in my own life. The less migraine pain I experience, the less severe my bipolar symptoms (generally) are.

You can find the full article here, check it out!

Smartphone App Detects Mood Changes in Bipolar Patient’s Voices

A new smartphone app (currently still in testing phases, hopefully released soon) is being developed to help patients and doctors recognize early stages of mood swings in patients with bipolar disorder.

A novel idea and an interesting article, you can check out the full article here!

Big Changes for Psychiatric Experiments

I know many people who are furious at the method in which psychiatric drugs are prescribed (generally at random until we find one that alleviates our symptoms) and are also extremely concerned that doctors and researchers don’t understand more about the brain (and our disorders).

This month, things are changing. The National Institute for Mental Health based in Bethesda, Maryland is changing its grant process for psychiatric drug research.  Research can no longer be focused on just alleviating symptoms, but must also help us learn about the brain and psychiatric disorders.

“The new rules, which will apply to the grant cycle that begins in June, also seek to increase transparency by requiring faster online registration of trials and stricter guidelines for reporting results.”

The full article from scientificamerican.com can be found here and is quite interesting, I urge you to give it a read!

Bipolar Men more often Manic, Women more often Depressed?

In a recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders researchers found that men with bipolar disorder leaned toward the manic end of the spectrum, while women with bipolar disorder tended to lean toward the depressive end of the spectrum.

This difference in symptoms was most widely reflected in patient’s first episodes (predominantly mania for men and depression for women), and is suggested to be why women usually take longer to reach a bipolar diagnosis and are at a greater risk of suicide.

The study, led by psychiatrist Dr. Jean-Michel Azorin (associated with Sainte Marguerite Hospital, Marseille, France) also suggested men and women differed in respect to comorbid conditions as well. Men were shown to have a higher rate of bipolar comorbidity (sharing bipolar and another condition) with substance abuse, while women had a higher rate of bipolar comorbidity with eating disorders.

The study went on to speculate that these gender specific comorbidities may be why men were also shown to experience more neurologic conditions and cancer, while women experienced more metabolic disorders.

For more information, you can find an article here, or you can find the website for the Journal of Affective Disorders here.

Blood Test May Predict Suicide Risk

According to a recent study (published in Molecular Psychiatry) of bipolar patients in Indiana, molecules in the blood appear to indicate an individual’s current degree of suicidal intent.

The study was done on a small sample of the bipolar population (nine patients) so is really just a preliminary sort of study, however the findings were pretty interesting.

Researchers found that there are 41 enzymes and proteins in the blood that levels appear to fluctuate based on the patient’s level of suicidal risk.

One enzyme in particular called SAT1 was elevated in subjects who were feeling suicidal. Researchers also found that postmortem studies of the blood of subjects who had commit suicide had levels of SAT1 even greater than the living subjects researchers were studying.

Researchers also identified four biomarkers that may be used to indicate potential suicide risk in a patient even if the patient is not currently suicidal.

What an interesting find! You can find the whole article (with more detail) here.

Flu During Pregnancy Increases Risk for Bipolar Disorder

In a recent study founded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that women who become infected with the flu during pregnancy are four times more likely to have a child with bipolar disorder.

Researchers believe there is a link between this finding and the fact that several studies on schizophrenia have had the same outcome.

The article goes on to warn pregnant women to take precautions against getting the flu during pregnancy by getting a flu shot, and avoiding contact with people infected with the flu as much as possible.

You can find more details in the original article here.