Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why people with bipolar disorder are bigger risk-takers

Date:
July 9, 2014
Source:
Manchester University
Summary:
Circuits in the brain involved in pursuing and relishing rewarding experiences are more strongly activated in people with bipolar disorder, guiding them towards riskier gambles and away from safer ones, researchers report. The study used brain imaging to identify neural pathways that are responsible for the symptoms of the disorder. The findings will help to design, evaluate and monitor therapies for bipolar disorder.

Researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool have discovered that circuits in the brain involved in pursuing and relishing rewarding experiences are more strongly activated in people with bipolar disorder -- guiding them towards riskier gambles and away from safer ones.

The study by the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, published in the journal BRAIN, used brain imaging to identify neural pathways that are responsible for the symptoms of the disorder.

The findings will help to design, evaluate and monitor therapies for bipolar disorder.

Patients with bipolar disorder experience episodes of depression and mania (periods of intense excitement and irritability, often leading to very risky behaviour) which occur unpredictably. It is one of the most serious and difficult to treat forms of mental illness, associated with reduced life expectancy, a high risk of suicide, and sometimes persistent impairment of work and social relationships.

In recent years, a number of people in the public eye, such as Stephen Fry and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have spoken openly about their diagnosis of bipolar disorder, raising awareness of the condition. But problems with social stigma, stereotypes, and prejudice against sufferers are still widespread.

The Medical Research Council funded study will look at the neuroscience underlying the risky decisions made by bipolar patients. Researchers Dr Liam Mason and Professors Wael El-Deredy and Daniela Montaldi at The University of Manchester, in collaboration with Professor Richard Bentall and Dr Noreen O'Sullivan at the University of Liverpool, invited participants to play a game of Roulette in which they made safe or risky gambles. The researchers measured their brain activity throughout using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Their findings revealed a dominance of the brain's "pleasure centre" which drives us to seek out and pursue rewards, responding to them automatically -- before conscious awareness kicks in. This ancient brain area, called the nucleus accumbens, was more strongly activated in people with bipolar disorder compared to a healthy control group.

Another key difference arose in the prefrontal cortex, a recently evolved area of the brain which is associated with conscious thought. Much like the conductor of an orchestra, it gives us the ability to coordinate our various drives and impulses -- such as quelling our urges when faced with risky decisions -- allowing people to make decisions that are less immediately rewarding but better in the long run. The researchers found that for control participants, their prefrontal cortex guided them towards safe gambles and away from risky ones. For the people with bipolar disorder the balance swung the other way: greater neural activity for risky gambles.

Professor Wael El-Deredy said: "The greater buzz that people with bipolar disorder get from reward is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps people strive towards their goals and ambitions, which may contribute to the success enjoyed by many people with this diagnosis. However, it comes at a cost: these same people may be swayed more by immediate rewards when making decisions and less by the long-term consequences of these actions."

Professor Richard Bentall said, "This study shows how we can use the new tools of neuroscience to better understand the psychological mechanisms that lead to a psychiatric disorder which, until now, has been very difficult to understand."

Dr Liam Mason, who now works at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said: "Understanding how the brain works to regulate the pursuit of goals will help us to design, evaluate and monitor better therapies for bipolar disorder."

The researchers are keen to explore the potential for psychological therapies that can support people in engaging with their value systems and therefore better regulate their pursuit of goals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Manchester University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wael El-Deredy et al. Decision-making and trait impulsivity in bipolar disorder are associated with reduced prefrontal regulation of striatal reward valuation. Brain, July 2014 DOI: 10.1093/brain/awu152

Cite This Page:

Manchester University. "Why people with bipolar disorder are bigger risk-takers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140709095626.htm>.
Manchester University. (2014, July 9). Why people with bipolar disorder are bigger risk-takers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140709095626.htm
Manchester University. "Why people with bipolar disorder are bigger risk-takers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140709095626.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins