Teens with Bipolar Disorder Misinterpret Facial Expressions

Findings indicate abnormal emotion-attention interactions in bipolar disorder

FRIDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents with bipolar disorder are more likely than healthy teens to interpret neutral facial expressions as displaying hostility, identifying a deficient link between attention and emotion centers of the brain, according to a report in the June 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Brendan A. Rich, Ph.D., from the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues examined neural mechanisms mediating facial processing in 22 youths with bipolar disorder, average age 14 years, compared to 21 control subjects.

Bipolar patients perceived greater hostility in neutral faces, reported more fear, and had greater activation in the left amygdala, accumbens, putamen and ventral prefrontal cortex when viewing neutral faces compared with controls.

The authors indicate their results "demonstrate abnormal emotion-attention interactions in pediatric bipolar disorder that are associated with negative attributions to neutral faces and increased activation in the amygdala and ventral striatum." The findings support previous studies in adults and suggest that "developmental psychobiology approaches to chronic mental illness have broad applicability."

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Barry Thrash

Barry Thrash

Updated on June 02, 2006

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