UI researchers seek to better understand the bipolar disorder


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katin

The Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building is seen on April 17, 2018. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

University of Iowa researchers seek to gain a better understanding of bipolar disorder and how it causes brain metabolism to change.

“We are looking [at] two fundamental questions,” said Vincent Magnotta, a UI professor of radiology. “How people with bipolar disorder differ from control subjects and how does that change with mood.”

Bipolar disorder is defined as a personality that wavers between different mood states, he said, including mania (over-excitement), depression, and a euthymic (balanced) mood state.

“We want to see how volume of different structures in the brain and [its] connectivity [change],” he said.

Jess Fiedorowicz, a UI associate psychiatry professor who oversaw the recruitment and clinical assessments of the study patients, said the research grew out of an interest in mood disorders.

“The assessments include a structured diagnostic interview and various rating scales measuring current mood, anxiety, or other symptoms,” he wrote in an email to *The Daily Iowan*. “We also collect information, for instance, on medical history and medication use. We were already interested in mood disorders, and this just got to be a disorder we started to pursue because of the funding we had.”

“It came about from our interest in monitoring and measuring brain pH,” said UI psychiatry Professor John Wemmie, who works on the research with Magnotta.

Low brain pH, or high acidity, is linked with panic disorders, anxiety, and depression.

This is a collaboration to find ways to monitor brain pH, Wemmie said. Earlier studies on mice had suggested that changes in brain pH can have different effects.

“We thought patients with bipolar disorders would be interesting to look at [given these studies],” he said.

The study started by looking at patients who were depressed, and scientists saw a change that corresponded with abnormality of brain pH in the cerebellum.

“This project is looking to better understand these abnormalities,” Wemmie said.

The study is currently in its early NIH funding stage, in the first year, Magnotta said. Data over five years will be collected.

“Our project is particularly innovative in that we are focused on a part of the brain called the cerebellum, which to date has been understudied,” Fiedorowicz said.

The cerebellum is located in the back of the skull and is responsible for coordination and regulation of muscular activity.

“This grant is really focused in assessing the cerebellum in particular and studying how the cerebellum is connected to other regions,” Magnotta said. “This network known as the emotional-control network.”

Researchers hypothesize that bipolar disorder will have abnormal metabolism, especially in a normal mood state, in the cerebellum, Magnotta said.

“We think that the cerebellum might be compensating for changes in other regions of the brain involved in this emotional-control network,” he said.

The study is funded by the NIH and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute.

Facebook Comments