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Scans May Spot Bipolar Disorder

Can detect metabolic differences in key areas of brain

TUESDAY, Nov. 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Imaging technology called magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy may make it easier for psychiatrists to diagnose people with bipolar disorder.

Using MR spectroscopy, researchers at the Mayo Clinic examined the brains of 21 bipolar patients who weren't taking any drugs or medications and 21 healthy control subjects. The MR spectroscopy identified major differences between the two groups in metabolite levels in four areas of the brain that control movement, behavior, reading and vision, and sensory information.

The findings were presented Nov. 30 the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago.

"The psychiatric community clearly needs a tool to help diagnose bipolar disorder. We are hopeful that very high-field MR spectroscopy will prove helpful by identifying metabolic markers of the disease," Dr. John D. Port, an assistant professor of radiology and a consultant at the Mayo Clinic, said in a prepared statement.

Bipolar disorder, which affects about 2.3 million Americans, is characterized by alternating extremes of emotional highs and lows. Currently, it's diagnosed on the basis of symptoms and family history. People with bipolar disorder can 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. 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," Port said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about bipolar disorder.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Nov 30, 2004
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