brain scan

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has launched a $3 million study to determine whether brain differences in people with bipolar disorder are the result of genetic changes.

“We know that bipolar brains are different and we know that bipolar disorder runs in families. So we will be comparing the brain images of a sibling with bipolar disorder to a same-sex sibling who has not developed bipolar disorder,” said Dr. Jair Soares, principal investigator, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and executive director of The University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center. “We hope we can find some key changes that will lead to markers to help us pinpoint those at greatest risk for developing bipolar disorder.”

Neuroimaging studies have identified differences in the fronto-limbic regions of the brain. There is evidence, Soares said, that there may be anatomical and functional differences in the sub-regions of the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe. The brain regions are interlinked and differences could result in emotional instability, behavioral activation, and other symptoms seen in bipolar patients.

The five-year study is recruiting 60 male and female sibling pairs in which one sibling has bipolar disorder and the other does not, as well as 60 matched controls. The sponsor is the National Institute of Mental Health (1RO1MH085667-01A1).

Study participants will make three visits for diagnostic assessments, neuroimaging, neurocognitive testing, and a blood draw. For more information, call 713.486.2627, or visit the UTHealth Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders.

-Deborah Mann Lake, Media Relations, Office of Advancement