“Within psychology and neuroscience, some new and rigorous experimental paradigms for studying consciousness have helped it begin to overcome the stigma that has been attached to the topic for most of this century.”—David Chalmers, a philosopher specializing in philosophy of the mind and consciousness
This is something I found while I was replying privately to one of the many questions you guys send me. In this case, somebody was asking about finding programs that were a good fit… I tried this site and was pleased with the results… Basically, it’s a simple online tool that ranks neuroscience/neurobiology graduate schools according to the characteristics you want in a program.
I just read your reblog about Huntington's and I was wondering... is adult onset Huntington’s just suddenly triggered at a certain age (with the approrpriate number of repeats in their genome since birth) or are the repeated segments repeated in replication errors until the number of tandem repeats triggers the disease?
Great question! I’ve been searching online and can’t arrive at a solid answer. I personally don’t know, but from what I’ve read I think it’s the number of tandem repeats that triggers the disease… For example, people with +40 tandem repeats usually develop the disease while people with 36-40 repeats may or may not develop the disease.
Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that greatly affects muscle coordination and cognition. The nerve cells in the brain slowly breakdown and atrophy. Huntington’s disease affects the striatum of the brain as well as the hippocampus, purkinje cells, and the cerebellum.
Huntington’s is an autosomal dominant genetic disease that results from a defect on chromosome #4. The defect causes a repeat in a CAG sequence on the DNA to occur many more times than normal. In person without Huntington’s, the CAG sequence is repeated 10 to 35 times. In an individual with Huntington’s disease, the repeat can be repeated 36-120 times. The repeated sequence is expanded as it is passed through one generation to the next, lengthening the sequence in each offspring. Therefore, the disease becomes progressively juvenile. If one parent has Huntington’s, the child has a 50% chance of having the disease as well.
There are two types of Huntington’s: juvenile which appears in children and the much more common form, adult-onset Huntington’s which appears in an individual aged 30 to 40.
Huntington’s disease has become a target due to the ethical issues associated with it. Many question when an individual should be tested for the disease, if at all. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis has been used as a selective form of abortion. Some individuals who might have the disease may opt to not have the disease diagnosed.
Worldwide, 5-10 people out of 100,000 have the disease.
After the first onset of symptoms, an individual typically has a life span of twenty more years of life. Huntington’s has no cure and ultimately leads to death. Suicide is one of the greatest cause of fatalies in the disease with 7.3% with Huntington’s taking their own lives and up to 27% attempting suicide.
Diagnosis: A genetic counselor can determine if the child will have Huntington’s disease using genetic testing. The geneticist will look at the number of CAG repeats and determine the likelihood of the person developing Huntington’s in their life. In most cases, the affected individual will have an idea of when the symptoms will onset. A physical diagnosis that analyzes the symptoms of Huntington’s is also effective for most patients. Medical imaging of the brain can also show which areas of the brain have atrophied.
Symptoms: Huntington’s disease affects many parts of the body. Movement disorders can include involuntary jerking, sustained contraction of muscles, rigidity, diffulty with speech, posture problems, and difficulty swallowing. Cognitive disorders include difficulty with organization, emotional flexibility, lack of focus and reasonable thinking, and various other symptoms. Lastly, psychiatric disorders include sadness, unhappiness, social withdrawal, loss of interest, fatigue, feelings of guilt, reduced appetite, and reduced sex drive.
Treatment: There is no cure for Huntington’s disease. Some of the symptoms can be controlled with various antidepressants and other drugs that reduce the amount of involuntary muscle jerking.
Additional Information: Huntington’s disease has become prominent in different media sources and has appeared in Everwood, House, Private Practice, ER, and Scrubs.
Can you tell me the difference between Psychophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, and neuropsychology? I know they are closely related, but are the interchangeable or quite distinct?
I personally don’t consider them interchangeable.
As far as I’m concerned, psychophysiology is a branch within psychology interested in the physiological processes that underlie psychological processes, although on a very basic (uncomplicated) level. To add to the confusion, people use interchangeable terms like psychobiology, biopsychology and physiological psychology as well. These are pretty much equivalent.
Cognitive neuroscience is a branch of psychophysiology that encompasses more concrete (i.e. scientific) knowledge from other disciplines (neuroscience) and is more specifically related to cognition, cognitive function and the role of brain function in these processes.
Neuropsychology on the other hand, is more thorough (IMO) because it focuses on the neural bases of the brain’s structure and function in relation to specific behaviors (which may or may not be related to pathology) and other psychological processes. Neuropsychology is also more closely tied to pathology and figuring out what’s wrong in the brain or nervous system and how to fix it…
“Swiftly the brain becomes an enchanted loom, where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern-always a meaningful pattern- though never an abiding one.”—Charles Sherrington (Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine, 1953)
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, the Medical University of South Carolina and American Life Science Pharmaceuticals of San Diego have demonstrated that oral administration of a cysteine protease inhibitor, E64d, not only reduces the build-up of β-amyloid (Aβ) in the brains of animal models for Alzheimer’s disease, but also results in a substantial improvement in memory deficit. (More here)
From the news release:
Increased Aβ levels in the brain are associated with the development of memory loss and amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Aβ peptides are “cut” out from a larger protein called the amyloid precursor protein (APP) by an enzymatic “scissor” called β-secretase, and aggregate to form plaques in the brain regions responsible for memory.
E64d reduces Aβ by inhibiting the β-secretase “scissors” from “cutting” the APP chain into smaller toxic Aβ peptides. But in this study, the researchers found that the compound actually increases the activity of a protease called BACE1 which, to date, has been regarded as the primary β-secretase. Instead, E64d appears to lower brain Aβ by inhibiting the β-secretase activity of another protease, Cathepsin B.
On the topic of the Anon who asked about ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD-PI a few months back and I am 18 and in my second year of uni. My older brother has combined ADHD and was diagnosed with it as a child, and while I had brought it up with my mother once or twice that I thought I could have ADHD she said I didn’t. I was diagnosed more by accident then anything. I was seeing a psychiatrist who is known for treating people with ADHD for other problems when it came out I had it. If you believe you have ADHD, go see your schools psychologist or guidance counsellor. It can’t hurt. If you don’t have it, then it’s something you don’t have to worry about it and if you do have it, then you can get help for it.
In response to anon's ADHD question--I wasn't diagnosed until I was 17 and I was very, very angry because of it. I had been showing symptoms since kindergarten--if not sooner. There are psychologists at school usually, he/she could try approaching them instead of talking to her parents. I tried telling my mom that I was depressed/suicidal in 8th grade and she just laughed at me. Nothing hurts worse that being invalidated by a parent. ADHD is a serious matter and it's not something to be taken lightly. Anon--feel free to check out my blog i've posted quite a few times about my struggle with ADHD.
Thanks for your input. Anon, if you are feeling this way you should really try visiting a doctor…
Hi, I have a question about ADHD. Well I'm a freshman in high school, and I noticed that I matched the signs of ADHD since i read about it like about 3 years ago. I try to tell my parents that i honestly think i may have it, but they don't think so. They say that we would have been able to tell earlier. I was just wondering if that ever happens, where you don't get diagnosed until you're a teenager.
From my understanding, not necessarily. I mean, if your parents have never taken you to the doctor to see if your symptoms might be related to the disorder, it’s hard to tell. And many people get diagnosed as teenagers. My sister was diagnosed when she was in her 20s…
do you think personality characteristics are mostly learned? or through genes?
I believe that when it comes to personality, there’s a definite gene-environment interaction. I believe experience and circumstances shape whatever genetic predisposition we may have. For example, an individual may have genes that are associated w/ personality traits like impulsivity and novelty-seeking, but are raised in a strict and conservative environment where these qualities are not necessarily desirable… What I’m trying to get at is that the environment (society, culture, relationships) selects for some traits, regardless of what biological predisposition you may have.
Also, I’m a firm believer that humans have to ability to choose what they want to be like. For this reason, I feel that personality is both a conscious and unconscious effort.
What is the relationship between social and physical pain?
According to MacDonald and Leary, social pain refers to the emotional reactions that accompany the perception that one is being excluded from a social relationship or being devalued by desired relationship partners or groups. Usually, when people talk about emotional/social pain (social pain is considered by some as a type of emotional pain), they think of the word pain as being an adequate metaphor for hurt feelings. But what if emotional pain caused by social exclusion, rejection and loss, for example, operates through a similar mechanism than physical pain?
MacDonald and Leary (2005) have an interesting hypothesis: reactions to rejection are mediated by aspects of the physical pain system. From an evolutionary perspective, inclusion in social groups is essential for survival (in social animals). Thus, the authors propose that threats to social connections are basically processed and perceived as threats to safety. While this group argues that the aversive state characterized by emotional/social pain is similar to that experienced when going through physical pain, others (Thornhill & Thornhill, 1989) have argued that emotional pain functions in an analogous way to physical pain. They propose that such pain (social) focuses attention on significant social events (that may be important for survival) to promote the correction and avoidance of such future events. Interesting theory, no?
However, evidence supporting the theory of overlap between social and physical pain is abundant. For example, social and physical pain overlap in attitudes and behaviors and these 2 types of pain correlate similarly with factors such as extraversion, social support, anxiety, aggression and depression. Below is some of the evidence of overlap that I found most convincing:
Shared physiological mechanisms: Both types of pain have been shown to involve the anterior cingulate cortex, periaqueductal brain structures, and opioid/oxytocin systems.
The experience of pain consists of 2 components: pain sensation and pain affect. Pain sensation conveys information about actual tissue damage and is processed by specialized mechanoreceptors. Pain affect consists of the unpleasant and negative feelings that typically accompany pain sensation as well as the emotions associated with future implications of those sensations. Emotional pain taps into the pain circuitry indirectly- via the pain affect component.
Emotional pain, like physical pain, can serve to regulate and modify future behavior. Emotional and physical pain may both serve as negative reinforcement that functions to guide the animals to safety. Increases/decreases in pain mark avoidance/approach responses and behaviors, respectively in order to minimize pain.
In the context of learning, specific early life experiences are involved in alleviating both types of pain. In babies, physical pain (hunger) or discomfort (soiled) is usually alleviated by emitting signals (crying, gestures) that elicit a caregiver response. The baby learns that physical (and social) contact may help minimize the pain so babies form attachment relationships. Basically, the baby learns that if it’s alone (socially isolated), it will be in pain (nobody will take care of it). In short, babies make this connection between social and physical pain very early on.
MacDonald and Leary. 2005. Why Does Social Exclusion Hurt? The Relationship Between Social and Physical Pain. The Psychological Bulletin. 131 (2): 202-223. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.131.2.202
Related seminal work: Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. London: Oxford University Press.
hey there, i was wondering how long you've been studying for? and also, at what stage does one become adequately qualified to work in the neuropsych profession?
it's been my dream to be a neuropsychologist for years now, im currently in my final year of highschool and have already had interviews with universities who say that they'd accept me but I'd love to know what studying is like and what topics you look at in the first few years of the course... i'm pretty sure however that the australian system (where i'm from) is quite different to the american system but i'd just love to know your perspective anyhow because i don't know anyone else who is remotely as interested in the subject as i am around here haha...
B.S. Biology = 4 years
Neuroscience and Physiology Ph.D. program=2 years (end of my second year). My NSF grant runs for 3 more years so hopefully it won’t be more than 5 years total for my Ph.D.
Again, I’m not the right person to ask for the neuropsych because I study neuroscience, not neuropsychology.
Studying is hard but it pays off in the end. Just knowing that I can wrap my mind around these complex subjects is enough of payoff for me to be honest.
Hi. I really love your blog and am a prospective applicant into a doctoral neuro program. I am taking the GRE soon (by June) and would appreciate if you can recommend some study material. I was thinking of taking 2 subject tests in biology and psychology along with the general. Does this sound like a good idea? I'd appreciate your input so much (ie. which study materials you used, especially for the general exam as well b/c I'm told that the subject tests are easier) Thanks so much and I'm looking forward to hearing your response!
Hey, thanks :]
I didn’t study much for the GRE. It’s basically just verbal (english) and quantitative (math). I did some practice for the quantitative part. I took some reviews that the SLOAN program back at my home institution paid for. Somebody from Baylor came to help us review…
I also didn’t take any subject tests so I may not be the best person to ask. I’ve asked my friends from grad school what they’ve taken and what they’ve think and the consensus is that the biology one is way more important than the psych one. Both are a good idea, if you are up to it, but are not necessary. For the psych one I would suggest taking one in a subject you master, obviously.
I have gotten so many questions about people who are interested in neuroscience as a career that I have created this post so I can reference back to it in the future.
Note: This is a guide directed towards people that want RESEARCH careers. My graduate program’s approach towards neuroscience integrated knowledge from many areas like electrophysiology, cellular and molecular biology, and computational neurobiology relying on mathematics/physics. Also, a number of you seem to be under the impression that I am studying neuropsych, which I am not. Neuropsych is traditionally a more clinically-oriented branch within neuroscience.
First of all, if you want to become a neuroscientist, you will most likely have to complete formal graduate training in a related branch or field. You have to be ready for this, because it is something that will take a long time. Not to worry though, time flies and if you like what you’re doing you won’t mind…
In college, the most common options are majoring in either biology or psychology. Some schools have a neuroscience or biopsychology major that may be in the biological sciences department or the psych department or even a combination of both. For example, you could major in biology and minor in psych or vice versa… Because neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field, I would recommend taking courses outside your major (especially if you’re in a psych dept). Helpful and attractive courses include: physics, calculus, organic chemistry, biochem, genetics, cell and molecular biology, bioethics, and neuropsych or psych courses. Importantly, some people come from other backgrounds like electrical/computer engineering that are also helpful in areas like electrophysiology, computational neurobiology and neuronal modeling. Thus, a major in biology or psychology is not a MUST but it definitely gives you an advantage.
While in college, it is also important to gain research experience (try volunteering in labs just to learn or for course credit) while maintaining a decent GPA. And by decent I mean higher than 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. Of course, not all is lost if your GPA is below a 3.5. It will just be harder and you might not be regarded as competitive as other students. Mind you, if you have a 4.0 but all your classes are in the soft sciences and you didn’t take challenging courses, you’re in trouble as well… Third year of college (assuming you will graduate in 4 years) is crucial. This is the time to beef up your CV/resume, take the GRE, talk to people who will be your references, and complete your application to graduate schools. Graduate schools have a wide variety of programs (i.e. neurobiology, neuroscience, neuropsych) with different kinds of focus. Look at the curriculum for each program and find one that is well-suited for your interests and career aspirations. Remember to apply early and to ask for fee waivers, if available (I applied to 8 schools and got fee waivers for all but one of them!). Your personal statement is essential. And by that I mean it absolutely has to be good if not great. Different schools have different criteria for this essay and you should remember to pay attention to these criteria and follow instructions. You should also have several people proofread it before you send it. After you submit your application, send an e-mail to make sure everything is complete. If you get an interview, ask who your interviewers will be and familiarize yourself with their research and areas of expertise. Be nice, enthusiastic and ask smart questions. Also, during your interview, highlight why you want to be part of the training environment at that particular university or location and why you’d be a good match for the program and the department. Remember to send thank you e-mail to the faculty that met with you and anybody else you deem appropriate to thank.
Graduate school: Do your best to learn and understand the material presented in your intro classes, as it will be the foundation that most of the other classes will be built upon. You don’t need stellar grades in graduate school, but you do need to pass, which for most universities is a solid B. While you are during your first year, you will most probably rotate through different labs in which you will be able to get to know the lab, learn the techniques and figure out if it’s a good fit for you. After you finish classes, you will be working on your thesis. Most likely, you will need to propose your thesis, select a review committee (composed of experts in fields relating to your research), work in lab and collect data to support your thesis, and defend it. After you defend your thesis, your committee decides your fate. This is the meat of grad school. Work, work, work. Get that thesis out and publishing well. Bonus if you learn how to write grants.
Post-graduate school: Postdoctoral fellowships are a common way of learning additional techniques or addressing a different but related question. Or you could also go into something you don’t know much about. I keep hearing that a postdoc is supposed to add versatility, diversity and publications to your CV. This is also the time period in which you learn how to run a lab, work on your own independent projects, write grants, and decide where you want your career to go (i.e. industry, academia, clinical). Think about it as an extension of your training in which you get more freedom and flexibility.
Alternatively, some people enroll in medical school to pursue an MD degree in addition to the Ph.D. one while others go back to school for other degrees (ex. PsyD, law, etc…). Others find industry jobs or go into public policy.
Hope this helps. If you want to know about something more specific not listed here, contact me.
Not really. I don’t believe there is a direct link between the morphology of an individual’s skull and their character/personality. Phrenology is an interesting but unscientific attempt to localize the physical location of mental faculties in the brain/skull. Even though some functions are believed to be localized, such as planification/production of speech which is attributed to Broca’s area, and higher executive function in to the prefrontal cortex, most of these cannot be attributed to a single brain structure/area because most mental processes require connections between multiple brain areas to ensure proper function.
In short, mental processes need the integrative function of distinct structures.
Just thought I’d let you know what’s going on with my lack of posts. Since January, I’ve been busy wrapping up my final semester of graduate school coursework (!!!). In addition, I’ve been writing an NIH NRSA (F31) grant titled: Infant Trauma, Amygdala Dopamine, and Later Life Behavioral Dysregulation. It’s me and my PI’s baby and I’m head PI. If it works (aka if our predictions are right), it could be a career starter for me. So yeah, to sum it up, it’s a big deal. NYU SPA deadline is this Monday, April 4 and official NIH deadline is April 8. After that, I’m all yours ;) I have a lot of questions in my inbox and I do my best to answer all of them. I promise I will get to them soon!
Keep your fingers crossed for me please. I’m also waiting to hear back from this NSF grant I wrote last fall!
Hello, I'm not sure if you answer these questions before, but did you major in neuroscience for undergrad? Which college did you attend and which college are you currently completing your graduate studies at. Was it competitive to get into graduate school?
No. I majored in biology, minored in psych. I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (Antes, Ahora y Siempre, Colegio!) and I’m currently at NYU.
You tell me: over 700 applied, about 160 got interviews, around 90 were accepted, and 40ish ended up matriculating.
The innocent, unconscious bias that discourages girls from math and science. […]
[…] Stout, Dasgupta, and their colleagues wanted to find out why women’s outstanding performance on science and math tests in high school and college correlates so weakly with their eventual interest in pursuing careers in those fields. In high school and college, girls increasingly earn math and science grades equal to or better than the grades of their male peers. But when it comes to choosing a career in math or science, more men than women choose to walk through those open doors.
The psychologists asked female students studying biology, chemistry, and engineering to take a very tough math test. All the students were greeted by a senior math major who wore a T-shirt displaying Einstein’s E=mc2 equation. For some volunteers, the math major was male. For others, the math major was female. This tiny tweak made a difference: Women attempted more questions on the tough math test when they were greeted by a female math major rather than a male math major. On psychological tests that measured their unconscious attitudes toward math, the female students showed a stronger self-identification with math when the math major who had greeted them was female. When they were greeted by the male math major, women had significantly higher negative attitudes toward math.
In a more ambitious experiment organized with the university’s math department, the psychologists evaluated how undergraduates performed when they had male or female math professors.
They measured, for instance, how often each student responded to questions posed by professors to the classroom as a whole. At the start of the semester, 11 percent of the female students attempted to answer questions posed to the entire class when the professor was male, and 7 percent of the female students attempted to answer questions posed to the entire class when the professor was female. By the end of the semester, the number of female students who attempted to answer questions posed by a male professor had not changed significantly: Only 7 percent of the women tried to answer such questions. But when classes were taught by a woman, the percentage of female students who attempted to answer questions by the semester’s end rose to 46.
The researchers also measured how often students approached professors for help after class. Around 12 percent of the female students approached both male and female professors for help at the start of the semester. The number of female students approaching female professors was 14 percent at the end of the semester. But the number of female students asking for help from a male professor dropped to zero.
Finally, when Stout and Dasgupta evaluated how much the students identified with mathematics, they found that women ended up with less confidence in their mathematical abilities when their teachers were men rather than women. This happened even when women outperformed men on actual tests of math performance.
Think about that. On objective measures of math performance, these women were outscoring men. But their identification with mathematics was not tied to their interest, determination, or talent. It was connected to whether their teacher was a woman or a man.
These experiments suggest that subtle and unconscious factors skew the “free choices” we make. The career choices of men and women are affected far more by discrimination than by any innate differences between men and women. But it is not the kind of discrimination we usually talk about. We ought to assume that male math professors at the University of Massachusetts were just as committed to teaching young women as they were to teaching young men. And those professors were just as talented as their female counterparts. (The professors and students were not told the purpose of the experiment beforehand, so the female professors and female students couldn’t have entered into some kind of pact to boost test scores.)
The traditional model of discrimination, in which people deliberately tip the scales in favor of one group over another, still applies in some cases. There are undoubtedly sexist professors. But overt sexism does not explain these findings. In fact, that model of discrimination might be an obstacle to overcoming the real challenge.
Our reasons for feeling suited to particular professions are only partially—and perhaps tangentially—tied to our interests, determination, and talent. More than three decades ago, psychotherapists at Georgia State University studied why some women, by all objective measures bright and talented, believed they were less gifted than they were. No matter the evidence, they believed they were imposters.
It is true that fewer women than men break into science and engineering careers today because they do not choose such careers. What isn’t true is that those choices are truly “free.”
I had seen this a little while ago and had saved as draft so I could reflect on it later…
When I was in undergrad, I remember being in some classrooms with 15 females and something like 3 males. Because I took most of my undergrad classes with girls, I can’t say I ever felt that gender-bias, even when most of my professors were male. Most of the time we actually “outscored” the guys and ended up tutoring them… But then, as graduation time came along, suddenly many girls didn’t know what to do afterwards (myself included). So some ended up going to medical school, some ended up in Ph.D. programs, some ended up back at their parents’ place and some ended up doing nothing related to biology. For me, however, this short period of confusion was not attributable to gender-related insecurities in the field. It was more about trying to decide how to invest some of my best years (early twenties) by doing something that I regarded as both fun and professionally relevant to my academic interests.
Now that I’m at that place, I find myself thinking long-term and trying to plan out my scientific/academic career. Then it hit me, perhaps my decisions/insecurities are tied to gender! I feel like I’m racing against time to do everything I possibly can to advance my career before I hit 35. Why 35? Because that’s approximately when my biology, in terms of sexual reproduction, will start declining. Like many other women in this field, I want it all: the degree, the great job, the high-profile publications in top journals, the extensive network, the man I want to marry, and the family I’ve always dreamed of. I wonder if men have these same concerns. In my opinion, I think it’s somewhat unfair that men’s biological clock doesn’t tick-tock the way it does for us women. Think about it: we even get a monthly reminder of our reproductive status- something I’m still unhappy about. In short, although gender does play a role in selecting careers and even timing the events associated to that career, it never made me feel less able to perform once I chose a career.
Of course, I understand that my experience may not be reflective of the majority of girls in my situation and that other factors come into play. My personality (i.e. stubbornness, obsessive-compulsiveness, determination, etc…), the fact that I have a female PI (who’s all about female empowerment and domination in the field), and my supportive parents (who’ve always told me I can do anything I want to do) have all played a part in keeping me where I’m at. And I’m grateful for that. I guess what I want to say, to all the ladies out there, is that the barrier for women in science is not like what you’re probably thinking about/expected. Women comprise a huge intellectual force that’s actually driving the field forward. Of course, there are areas like computational neurobiology, for example, in which female figures are harder to find, but they’re there. And how are we going to do something about it (and change it) if females shy away from these areas instead of tackling them? In my opinion, we’ve surrendered many areas to males, even when we have the capabilities to perform just as well- or even better. And gender has played a role in that. We seem to be somewhat intimidated by males… Especially when we say stuff like: “But males are more analytical… They’re better with numbers…” Blah blah blah. I say we own what we want to do and we do it. Let’s show the guys how it’s done ;)
“International Women’s Day offers us an important opportunity to celebrate the achievements of great women past and present. Celebrating the achievements of women should not, however, make us blind to the cultural barriers which stood and continue to stand in the way of sexual equality. Today should not just be about celebrating the achievements of great women but also about appreciating the ongoing nature of their struggle.”—
Bipolar disorder (or manic-depressive disorder) is a psychological disorder affecting a person’s mood that is characterized by the presence of one or more abnormally elevated mood, cognitive, or energy levels. These episodes are referred to as mania (manic episodes). It ranges from low levels of depression to high levels of mania (increased mood). These mood shifts may occur several times a year or several times a day depending on the severity. Bipolar disorder usually appears in people ages 15-25 and has an unknown cause. However, genetics are said to play a slight part in the disorder, as well as hormonal imbalance and neurotransmitter problems.
There are typically three types of bipolar disorder:
Type I have at least one manic episode with major periods of depression. In the US, about 1% of people have Type I.
Type II never have significant episodes of mania, but instead experience elevated levels of energy and impulsiveness. These periods often alternate with episodes of depression. Type II is significantly less severe. About ~.5% people in the US have Type II.
Cyclothymia: The mild form. The highs and lows are not as severe as the other two types. Also, about .5% of people have Cyclothymia.
It is estimated that 1 out of 3 people with bipolar disorder have attempted or succeeded at past attempts of suicide.
Globally, about 4% of the population have said they experienced bipolar disorder at some point in their life. It is equally prevalent in both sexes and every race.
Diagnosis: A physician may check past patient history, analyze thyroid hormone levels, perform a thorough physical examination to rule out physical trauma, metabolic disturbance, and by analyzing the number of episodes experienced.
Symptoms: In the manic phase, symptoms typically include euphoria, extreme optimism, rapid speech, risky behavior, increased sex drive, inability to concentrate, delusions from reality, and decreased need to sleep.
In the depression phase, symptoms include persistent feelings of guilt, anxiety, anger, sadness, disturbances in sleep and appetite, loss of interest, self-loathing, lack of motivation, irritability, and elevated suicidal thoughts.
Treatment: Psychotherapy may reduce the core symptoms and reduce episodal triggers. The purpose of psychotheraphy is to reduce negative expressed emotion in relationships, and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Medications also have a profound effect on treatment. Mood stabilizer drugs are some of the most commonly used (Lamotrigine and lithium carbonate). Antidepressants are somewhat controversial because multiple side-effects have been observed.
Additional Information: Several well-known people have said to have suffered from bipolar disorder including Russel Brand, Kurt cobain, Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher, Mel Gibson, Macy Gray, Ernest Hemmingway, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheri Oteri, Edgar Allan Poe, Jackson Pollock, Axl Rose, Nina Simone, Patrick Stump, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf.
Bipolar disorder is often used inappropriately with many people claiming they’re bipolar after experience infrequent mood swings.
Fairly accurate and concise. Except that I would classify bipolar disorder as a psychiatric disorder (Axis I disorder).