herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Bipolar 
sufferers 'are wired for risks'

A ROULETTE game played while undergoing a brain scan has shown that people with bipolar disorder are wired for risk.

Sufferers of the serious mental illness appear to be dominated by the brain's "pleasure centre" that drives us to seek out and pursue rewards.

The ancient brain area, called the nucleus w, was more strongly activated in people with bipolar disorder than healthy volunteers.

With bipolar disorder, periods of deep depression alternate with manic episodes of intense excitement, irritability and hyperactivity, which can lead to highly risky behaviour.

It is difficult to treat and associated with reduced life expectancy, a high risk of suicide, and a destructive impact on work and personal relationships.

Ambitions

Prof Wael El-Deredy, from the University of Manchester, said: "The greater buzz that people with bipolar disorder get from reward is a double-edged sword.

"It helps people strive towards their goals and ambitions, which may contribute to the success enjoyed by many people with this diagnosis.

"However, these people may be swayed more by immediate rewards when making decisions and less by the long-term consequences of these actions."

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has spoken openly about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, helping to raise awareness of the condition.

The findings are published in the journal Brain.

hnews@herald.ie

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