A new study looks at how a software program can help recognize patterns of brain activity which may help doctors diagnose mental health disorders more accurately.
Researchers from the University College London (UCL) looked at the brain responses and patterns when people were shown images of happy faces and neutral faces. They noted that the brain patterns were different in healthy individuals compared to those with bipolar disorder or unipolar disorder—also known as major depressive disorder.
Past studies have largely used static magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), focusing on a single patient population. In this new study, Janaina Mourao-Miranda, PhD, a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow at UCL, used functional MRI to look at how brain patterns and activity change while an individual is participating in the test.
Brain activity in 18 people with unipolar disorder and 18 people with bipolar disorder who were at the time experiencing an episode of depression were studied by Mourao-Miranda and colleagues, and compared to a group of 18 healthy controls.
Participants were asked to distinguish between happy faces and neutral faces during a test. Researchers tried to identify—using pattern recognition software—those who had bipolar, those with unipolar, and those who had neither.
"We know from previous studies that individuals undergoing an episode of bipolar disorder or unipolar disorder respond differently to happy faces when compared to healthy individuals. They seem to be less sensitive to happy emotions," Mourao-Miranda said. "We wanted to see if it was possible to capture these differences in brain activity and use them as a way of diagnosing an individual's condition."
Pattern recognition software was able to identify responses to happy and neutral faces by the healthy control group much more easily than those experiencing a bipolar or unipolar episode. As well, those with bipolar had much lower responses than those with unipolar. The results support the belief that those with the illnesses have abnormal responses to emotional stimuli, which suggests malfunctions in this part of the brain's circuitry.
Researchers believe that with further research, a tool could be created to accurately distinguish people with bipolar and unipolar disorder, allowing for more accurate diagnoses.
The study was published in the journal Bipolar Disorder.
Source: Insciences Organization