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Brain Imaging for Differences in Childhood Bipolar Disorder and ADHD

Brain Imaging for Differences in Childhood Bipolar Disorder and ADHD

Researchers use brain imaging to examine the effects of emotion on working memory function in children with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

PBD and ADHD are very severe developmental disorders that share behavioral characteristics such as impulsivity, irritability and attention problems.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) examined the brain activity of children as they performed a working memory task while viewing faces with different emotions, such as angry, happy or neutral expressions.

The children, ages 10 to 18, were asked to remember the faces and to press a button in the MR-scanner if they saw the same face that was presented two trials earlier. The study involved 23 non-medicated children with bipolar disorder, 14 non-medicated children with ADHD and 19 healthy controls.

"It's a simple yet elegant working memory test that tells us a lot about how their brain remembers stimuli like faces or objects," said Alessandra Passarotti, assistant professor of psychiatry at UIC and lead author of the study. "We also added in an emotional component – because both disorders show emotional deficits – to study how their working memory is affected by emotional challenge."

The researchers found that while both disorders show dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex relative to healthy controls, the ADHD group had the most severe dysfunction in this important region. The prefrontal cortex controls behavior, such as impulsivity, and executive function, as well as complex cognitive processes such as working memory, attention and language.

From a treatment, learning and intervention perspective, the next step for researchers and clinicians is to figure out how to help patients use their prefrontal cortex, Passarotti said.

The researchers also found that while the ADHD group had greater dysfunction in working memory circuits in the brain, the bipolar group had more deficits in regions of the brain involved in emotion-processing and regulation.

Now that researchers are starting to differentiate between the two disorders at a brain network level, rather than just at a behavioral level, the long-term goal is to develop diagnostic tests based on neurological and behavioral markers of illness that can be used in a clinical setting. Currently patients are diagnosed using clinical measures, questionnaires, behavior scales and interviews with parents.

REHACARE.de; Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

- More about the University of Illinois at Chicago at www.uic.edu

 
 

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