April 25, 2005

Brain Scans for Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Brain Scans May Soon Be Used for Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

A recent presentation by John D. Port, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America suggests that Magnetic resonance spectroscopy may be used in the near future to diagnose bipolar disorder because of the distinct differences and abnormalities in the brain chemistry of patients with bipolar disorder.

In the presentation, Dr. Port suggested:

"We hope to eventually refine this into a clinically useful test that could shave years off a patient's time to diagnosis,"

Physicians "clearly [need] a tool to help diagnose bipolar disorder. We hope this technique will prove helpful by identifying metabolic markers of the disease," he said, as reported in Family Practice News.

To complete the resarch, Dr. Port and his team utilized a 3T long-bore MR scanner, which had double the scanning resolution compared to devices used in prior studies on bipolar disorder. As part of the study, the research team scanned the brains of 21 study participants that had previously had clear diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and 21 healthy volunteers matched for age, sex, and dominant hand. The bipolar patients had not previously taken any medications for their bipolar disorder and free of substance abuse.

As part of the research, they scanned the brains for approximately 1 hour which allowed them to do scanning analysis of 14 regions of the brain, and five metabolites within the brain tissue.

Compared with healthy individuals, bipolar patients had significantly different levels of certain metabolites in two brain areas that control behavior and movement.

In the right frontal white matter, myoinositol was significantly increased, and in the right lentiform region, N-acetylaspartate, glutamate/glutamine, and creatine were significantly decreased in bipolar patients, compared with healthy normals, he told Family Practice News.

The brain scanning analysis also allowed them to distinguish between different severities of bipolar disorder.

For example, it was reported in Family Practice News that "Patients with bipolar I illness had significantly lower choline levels in the left caudate region of the brain, compared with patients with bipolar II illness and bipolar illness not otherwise specified (BP-NOS)."

The researchers suggested that the pattern of brain abnormalities and locations formed a "fingerprint" of bipolar disorder and its various subclassifications.

Dr. Port and his team are plannint to develop a diagnostic test that will improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and help determine which treatment would be best for a given person.

Sources:

Family Practice News

Radiological Society of North America Annual Meeting


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