I wanted to say "brain scans for bipolar people are different than normal people," but that isn't as accurate. It's more catchy though. Okay, this isn't a surprising concept, and we've known for a long time that bipolar brains are different than "normal" brains. However, up to this point, scientists have studied the frontal lobe. That makes sense, because the frontal lobe is in charge of impulse control and stuff like that. Impulse control is severely lacking when manic. The frontal lobe is also where most of the dopamine receptors are. So studying the frontal lobe in bipolar people makes sense.
This article, however, references a new study that looked at the cerebellum instead of the frontal lobe. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that deals with motor control, language and attention.
Basically, what the article says is that if you take a bipolar person in a normal mood (not manic, not depressed) and who is not on Lithium and scan their brain, the brain will look different in the cerebellum than it will in a normal person. If the bipolar person is on Lithium, the scans are similar.
Since the cerebellum is in charge of motor control, it also makes sense that Lithium screws up my balance when I take it. I get dizzy easily and can’t do anything complex like ride a bicycle.
This is a neat piece of trivia though. Some things to consider:
This study only had 15 people with bipolar disorder and 25 controls. The sample isn't that big. If you buy into the statistic that 1-4% of the population has bipolar disorder and that there are 320 million people in the United States, then there are at least 320,000 of us out there. Fifteen is rather small, comparatively. However, MRIs are time consuming and expensive, so 15 is better than none.
I didn't read a whole journal article for this. For one thing, I couldn't find it. I only found the Science Daily article and the smallish press release. For another, I have to be really interested in an article to pay for it. This is in the "that's a cool factoid" realm.