Just Another Teachin’ Tuesday: Bipolar Disorder? “Ehh – keep your LifeShirt on!”

Ah, sunny Southern California. The beaches, the mountains, the deserts, Hollywood, the LifeShirts. What? You read it correctly.

It seems psychiatric researchers at the University of California, San Diego, led by William Perry, Ph.D., are conducting a five year study of bipolar disorder, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s a good thing.

They’re using a device called a LifeShirt, manufactured by VivoMetrics of Ventura CA. The shirt monitors hyperactive and repetitive movements; and it also collects data on heart rate, respiration, and other bod functions.

The research team has come up with a patented approach that shows differences between the movement patterns of those enduring bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Here’s the lay of the land on the study. In addition to using a LifeShirt, the research team records the movements of subjects using a ceiling-mounted camera. This allows researchers to observe subjects in a more natural free-moving environment.

The film of behaviors is then converted into actual movement patterns that typify a manic state. As this is being done, similar work is conducted in the lab with mice.

The patterns of the bipolar subjects are compared to the patterns of the subjects who endure schizophrenia, and some interesting things are noted. The movements of the bipolar subjects are much more hyperactive, and they explored much more when entering new environments. The movement patterns of the schizophrenic subjects are much more restricted.

But the mission isn’t so much to note differences between those enduring bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It’s more a matter of assisting diagnosing professionals in the observation of bipolar disorder symptomatology. And that’s significant because during the very heights of a manic episode pertinent observations are, at times, difficult to make.

Another very important goal of the study is to collect data on how those enduring bipolar disorder filter sensory input from their environments. And a major target is the filtration of excessive or unimportant information. This dynamic contributes to some of the classic symptoms of mania – pressured speech, high-risk behaviors, grandiosity, and psychomotor agitation.

All of them are about issues with the regulation of behavior.

So the research team studies screening/filtering dynamics before and after treatment with meds, and the collected data are taken to the lab. There, the human data is stirred-in with the mice data; and the poor little critters (the mice, that is) become the test subjects for new drugs that hold the potential to provide relief.

Fascinating and hopeful research, to be sure. And the bottom-line is to gain insight into the assorted chemical imbalances and genetic boo-boos that contribute to a presentation of bipolar disorder.

Your thoughts, chipur readers? How ’bout sharing them in a comment (or two)?