Archive for the ‘Information’ Category

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“How bi-polar folks think”

June 14, 2007

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is reading through the terms people plug into search engines, in order to arrive at my blog. Sometimes the terms a bit bizarre, but mostly I use it as a guide to where I should be focusing my writing – at the very least, it sometimes gives me ideas of things to blog about. The title for this post, “how bi-polar folks think,” was just such a search term – and it sent me along an interesting path of research and introspection. So, whoever you were, thank you – I hope you were able to get some idea of what you were looking for and, in case you didn’t, I’ll add my thoughts to your search topic here :-) Read the rest of this entry ?

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Don’t go into the light!

June 12, 2007

I finished reading this article, from PsychEducation.org, about how dark therapy might actually supplement (if not actually supplant) medication for managing bipolar disorder. The author of this article falls back on a few different studies that were done, each demonstrating a link between enforced periods of darkness and a reduction in swinging moods. The suggested reason for why this happens, why people with bipolar disorder might benefit from dark therapy, rather than the light therapy given to people with SAD, has to do with our biological clocks. It was a theorized faulty biological clock that researchers were hoping to treat with dark therapy in the first study, as shown by this quote:

“They knew that the a specific part of the hypothalamus, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), has direct nerve connections from the eyes. It gets direct signals about how much light is out there. And it has been shown to be the main location of the ‘”biological clock”‘ in many animals, including humans. They thought that the SCN might get ‘”desensitized”‘ in some susceptible people by too much light, namely too much artificial light at night.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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Comorbidity and Brain Damage

June 8, 2007

Not exactly the most cheerful bits of news, but at least both indirectly offer some hope of increased understanding. The first article I stumbled across, titled “Study suggests bipolar disorder may cause progressive brain damage,” covers an older study from 2003. The study focused on the hippocampus, and an amino acid involved in neurogenesis and insulation of neurons in the brain; and found that not only did people with bipolar disorder tend to have less of this amino acid than the control group, but also that the people who had bipolar disorder longer tended to have even less, suggesting a link between decreased levels of the amino acid and duration of illness. Since the hippocampus is involved in memory, emotional regulation and spacial navigation, it’s a pretty important part of the brain to progressively lose function from. The hope offered by the study is that monitoring levels of this amino acid might help to physically determine the efficacy of treatments for bipolar disorder.

The second article comes to us from ScienceDaily, and is titled “Comorbidities Common In Bipolar Disorder May Have Genetic Link.” The article – though recent – isn’t itself all that informative; but does report that more research is being done on the genetic link to our comorbid conditions, rather than just bipolar disorder itself. Along with offering possible hope in better handling of these conditions in the future, through increased understanding of their origin, I think studies like this are important in showing that bipolar disorder is not just a ‘mental’ illness, but a physical disorder that can pack cancer, heart disease, and other ailments along with it.

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Brain Scanning

June 8, 2007

Today was not quite so good as yesterday – but I’ll gladly take it over the other days I had this week. One issue that came up today, and it’s come up a lot lately, is trying to judge whether or not an angry reaction is justified or not … for me, I’ve learned to wait a day or two and see if I’m still outraged by something. The problem with this is that it means I either risk reacting too quickly to something that I realize was nothing only a few days afterward – or I swallow my reactions down until it’s basically too late to react at all.

Anyway, I stumbled across this article today, from Psych Central News, about how new neuroimaging techniques may be used not only to pin down the underlying cause for bipolar disorder (and other psychiatric disorders); but also as a diagnostic tool, so doctors could more effectively screen for these disorders before the full onslaught of symptoms present themselves.  I see this as being something worth developing, although I can also see where something like this might open up a can of worms.

First, the good news is that if this technology might help to pin down the underlying causes of bipolar disorder, it might just help researchers move toward a cure. I understand something like that would be a long way away; but it could also lead to more effective treatments of symptoms along the way. I think it’s also good that such scans could be used in an almost proactive way, identifying the disorder in someone before the disorder has enough time to waste, ruin or end someone’s life. The other thing I’m keeping in mind is along the lines of the concluding remarks in a John McManamy article, titled “Brain Scans:”

“The next time you encounter a skeptic who tells you your illness is all in your head, you may want to download and print brain scans and keep them handy for future encounters. At the very least, these images eloquently portray in a way that words cannot that our illness is demonstrably real.” 

Such scans could help to combat the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder; but, in the wrong environment, such scans could also alienate people who are not yet experiencing symptoms. We live in an age now where credit checks are done for job candidates, or for people who wish to adopt a child – what if brain scans were also to become a legitimate part of the selection process? Psychological evaluations already exist, brain scans could take such evaluations to much higher levels, and preclude gifted and talented people from participating in jobs and activities, rather than include, before a single symptom were ever experienced.

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Lithium’s Function

June 5, 2007

I recently read an article that attempts to describe how lithium works in the treatment or management of bipolar disorder. The article, titled, “How Lithium Helps Bipolar,” can be found on Psych Central News. The article details a study on bipolar brains, made possible by use of new MRI technologies and techniques, that reveals lithium seems to help patients grow more grey matter in regions of the brain associated with emotional regulation. I think this is very interesting, and reading this makes me happy that I gave lithium a second try.

One question I have, though, that the article didn’t answer: what about bipolar people for whom lithium doesn’t work? Does this mean lithium only grows more grey matter in select people; or does it mean that having more grey matter in these specific regions of the brain may not be all that’s necessary for the kind of emotional regulation associated with healthy people?

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Do’s and Don’ts

June 5, 2007

If you haven’t read the list of do’s and don’ts for family and friends of bipolar folks at Bipolar Disorder Center, please take this opportunity to do so :-)  I think this list is pretty appropriate, and I would like to know if there are other ones out there, perhaps put together by people who are themselves bipolar – or was this list perhaps put together with bipolar involvement? As it is, I think this list is good enough that I’m going to add it to my growing list of resources on my sidebar.

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Catching a Darkness

June 1, 2007

For those who haven’t already seen the site, I’d highly recommend reading over Catching a Darkness. It’s not a site about bipolar disorder from a medical or academic perspective; but rather a brother’s recollections about his sister, who took her own life after years of struggling with BD. I’ve read page after page giving statistical information about elevated suicide risks, and I am aware of the thoughts that often surface in the whirlwind of my own mind; yet reading over Boris Dolin’s writings about his sister made this ugly aspect of BD seem somehow more poignant, more real.