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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 10 - 1 giu 2011
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Bipolar disorder: new directions for treatment  

A new study by motor control and psychology researchers at Indiana University suggests that postural control problems may be a core feature of bipolar disorder, not just a random symptom, and can provide insights both into areas of the brain affected by the psychiatric disorder and new potential targets for treatment.

Bipolar disorder is a severe psychiatric disorder characterized by extreme, debilitating mood swings and unusual shifts in a person's energy and ability to function. Problems with balance, postural control and other motor control issues are frequently experienced by people with mood and psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and neurological disorders such as Huntington's and Parkinson's disease, but research into the connections is scant.

If problems with postural control - maintaining balance while holding oneself upright - are a core component of bipolar disorder, as the study indicates, the researchers say it is possible that the motor abnormalities could appear before other symptoms, signaling an increased risk for the disorder. "For a number of psychological disorders, many different psychiatric treatments and therapies have been tried, with marginal effects over the long term. Researchers are really starting to look at new targets", said Amanda R. Bolbecker, lead author of the study published in Plos One and research scientist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Iu's College of Arts and Sciences. "Our study suggests that brain areas traditionally believed to be responsible for motor behavior might represent therapeutic targets for bipolar disorder."

The study involved 16 people (seven women) with bipolar disorder and 16 age-matched people (nine women) who had no psychiatric disorders. They each stood barefoot and as still as possible on a piece of equipment called a force platform, which measured various aspects of postural sway as they stood with their eyes open and feet close together, eyes open and feet shoulder-width apart, eyes closed and feet together, and eyes closed and feet apart. The measurements during each 2-minute pose included such factors as the area covered by a person's circular sway, how quickly they revolved and the degrees by which the sway moved more front to back or side to side.