- A simple computer test could help prevent bipolar disorder in those at risk
- During the test, participants were asked to look at highly emotional images
- Those with family who suffer bipolar are at greater risk of developing disorder
A simple computer test could help prevent bipolar disorder in those who have a high genetic risk of developing the condition.
Pioneering research has shown that the task can effectively ‘rewire’ the brains of those living with the mood disorder.
During the test, patients were asked to look at emotional photographs – such as angry expressions or images of mutilated bodies – and then memorise the order of them.
People with family members who suffer bipolar disorder are up to six times more likely to develop the condition – which affects just one percent of the British population
Those undergoing the tests are asked to look at distressing scenes of death and destruction
It is widely acknowledged that people whose parents or siblings suffer from bipolar disorder – a serious mental illness affecting one per cent of the UK population – are between four and six times more likely to develop the condition themselves.
In the new study, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York conducted experiments involving patients with a family history of bipolar disorder.
Over a three-week period, each patient was asked to spend 20 minutes a day looking at the pictures. They later underwent an MRI scan to measure the differences in brain connectivity and structure after the experiment.
The scans revealed that after the photo-memorising task, participants’ brain wiring was altered and brain connectivity was improved, particularly in areas typically affected by bipolar disorder.
Lead researcher Sophia Frangou said: ‘If participants engage in these tasks for about 20 minutes per day, we see a restructuring of the brain in a way that could be helpful and is cost-effective.’
She added: ‘While we see an effect after three weeks, we don’t know how long it will last.
‘People may need booster sessions to achieve long-term, preventative effects.’