Using MR spectroscopy of the brain, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., identified significant differences between the brain chemistries of people with and without bipolar disorder.
"The psychiatric community clearly needs a tool to help diagnose bipolar disorder," said John D. Port, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology and consultant at the Mayo Clinic. "We are hopeful that very high-field MR spectroscopy will prove helpful by identifying metabolic markers of the disease."
Currently, bipolar disorder is diagnosed by psychiatrists on the basis of symptoms and, when available, family history. Often patients go undiagnosed for years.
"Bipolar disorder is challenging to diagnose because individuals can cover up the symptoms of the illness or may recognize only their depression, not the manic phase of the disorder," Dr. Port said. "It's also important to be able to distinguish bipolar disorder from major depression because a mistaken diagnosis can result in the wrong therapy and unstable moods for years."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 2.3 million Americans have bipolar disorder. Left untreated, bipolar episodes typically become more frequent and more resistant to change through medication. Each year, approximately 30,000 depressed individuals commit suicide, according to NIMH.
The researchers studied 21 patients with bipolar disorder who were not taking any medications or drugs and 21 individuals without the disorder matched to each bipolar patient by age, sex and right- or left-handedness. Study participants
Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America