Monday, September 29, 2008

What happens in your brain when you have bipolar disorder

I love studies like this. They help substantiate that diagnoses such as bipolar disorder are not just "behavioral problems." They come with true biochemical imbalances, that sometimes even affect the tissue structure of the brain. Hopefully, the more studies like this are done, the less people with bipolar disorder will be looked down upon by society, and will be able to get the care they need that truly corrects these imbalances.

In this study, the fatty acid composition of the orbitofrontal cortex was studied in 10 patients with bipolar disorder. Compared to 19 cortices in individuals who did not have bipolar disorder. (This was performed in post-mortem, or after all the patients had died.)

Those individuals who had had bipolar disorder had higher concentrations of arachidonic acid and lower concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than those who had not. In both populations, there was also a trend toward higher arachidonic acid concentration and lower DHA concentration that was related to the degree of alcohol consumption.

A little visit over to Wikipedia gave me this information about the orbitofrontal cortex: Destruction...typically leads to a pattern of disinhibited behaviour. Examples include swearing excessively, hypersexuality, poor social interaction, compulsive gambling, excessive alcohol / smoking / drug use, and poor empathising ability. Disinhibited behaviour by patients with some forms of frontotemporal dementia is thought to be caused by degeneration of the OFC[8]. Patients with damage to the OFC tend to make rash decisions, and typically manage their finances poorly.

Sometimes it's easy to make judgments about a person's behavior and assume the person can just change them if they want to. It's reality that sometimes the problem is truly biological and that changing the nutritional status and/or the biochemistry of the brain is what is needed in order to help change behaviors.

McNamara RK, Jandacek R, Rider T, Tso P, Stanford KE, Hahn CG, Richtand NM. Deficits in docosahexaenoic acid and associated elevations in the metabolism of arachidonic acid and saturated fatty acids in the postmortem orbitofrontal cortex of patients with bipolar disorder. Psychiatry Res. 2008 Sep 30;160(3):285-99. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

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