New Research Adds to Understanding of Bipolar Disorder

Three new studies of Bipolar disorder, a serious and common comorbid condition of ADHD, have implications for both treatment and vulnerability.

Monday December 17th - 4:53pm

First, Jean A. Frazier, M.D., Director of the Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatric Research Program at Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School, presented research that suggested that the brains of children with Bipolar disorder are different from those of children without mental illness. The study also provided evidence that the areas of the brain affected, those areas dealing with “reward, motivation, sensory input, emotion and memory”, are particularly vulnerable during pubertal development. While more research needs to be done, Frazier suggests that adolescence may be a critical period during which pathways in brain development could lead to the onset of Bipolar disorder.

Two separate studies were presented on the connection between the circadian system (our internal clock) and Bipolar disorder. Colleen McClung, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, found that, in mice, the same genes control the circadian rhythms and the activity of neurons in the brain that use dopamine, which is involved in motivation and emotion.

Ellen Frank, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, compared treatment that included interpersonal and social rhythm therapy to one that dealt exclusively with symptoms of mood and medication side effects. She found that outcomes were better for those patients in the first treatment, implying that treatment which helps a patient regulate their internal clock is effective in treating Bipolar disorder.

The treatment and developmental implications of these studies are important for those who have Bipolar disorder or comorbid Bipolar disorder and ADHD. They may also be important for all people with ADHD, as more research is done on the connection between the two disorders.

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