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 Marcia Purse

Bipolar Disorder - Is Your Brain Shrinking?

By March 23, 2010

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A new study has found that people with bipolar disorder lose brain tissue as they age more rapidly than do people without mental illnesses. The tissue loss was concentrated in brain areas that control memory, facial recognition and coordination.

Reports on the study don't mention whether the subjects were taking medications, and the lead researcher's comments make no mention of whether medications could have an impact on the results. Also, the study was small - 20 test subjects and 20 in the control group. The researchers found that they all lost some grey matter over time - but those with bipolar disorder lost more. In addition, the most grey matter was lost in the people who had the most manic/hypomanic and depressive episodes.

The study leader, Dr. Andrew MacIntosh of the University of Edinburgh, said the results don't tell them whether loss of brain tissue is a cause or a result of the bipolar disorder. Commenting on the study, Professor Guy Goodwin of Oxford University said it shows that bipolar disorder really is a brain disease, and "[i]t supports the idea that cognitive function is impaired in bipolar patients in middle age..."

What these results clearly show is that stabilization is important for yet another reason. "No matter which way round it is," said Dr. MacIntosh, "it emphasizes in my mind the importance of maintaining people in remission and the importance of getting them the best treatment." Amen to that.


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March 23, 2010 at 8:55 am
(1) Pradeep Ghosh says:

I presume the assumption is correct. Dealing with a BP I have encounter such situation.

March 26, 2010 at 8:20 am
(2) Kathy Symonds says:

I was diagnosed with BP at age 16, but only in my 30′s when I had an MRI, did I find out that I have a scar on my left temporal lobe, part of brain that deals with memory and mood. So, still wondering if the Temporal Lobe epilepsy caused the Bipolar, or vice versa. Interesting to read in this article about the memory and cognitive loss.

Not on lithium as epileptic medication and an anti-depressant work well for me.

March 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm
(3) LadyHolmes says:

I didn’t know this until recently. Obviously it isn’t good news but it certainly helps me understand why I have noticed a loss of memory over the last couple years that has alarmed me. I have just started taking medication (having run from that for years). Unfortunately, I wished now I had started earlier. Haven’t had a MRI but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there is damage.

April 25, 2010 at 12:12 am
(4) Collette says:

I was diagnosed with Bi Polar at the age of 49. I had undergone an operation to have a para thyroid gland taken out because of a tumor. Not long after the operation I experienced a psychosis. That was my first psychosis, I was placed on medication which I took for 2 years until the psychiatrist took me off it, a year later I experienced another psychosis. I will never allow anyone to take me off medication again as the effects of the last one was devastating. I feel that the only problem that I have now is with my eyesight and I am sure that it is a side effect from the medication. I am studying now and would say that my memory is the best it has ever been.

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