Study Could Improve Diagnosis of Debilitating Childhood Mental Disorders
Results of a new study may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of two debilitating childhood mental disorders, pediatric bipolar disorder and a syndrome called severe mood dysregulation, better known by the acronym SMD.
Akinso: Results of a new study may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of two debilitating childhood mental disorders, pediatric bipolar disorder and a syndrome called severe mood dysregulation, better known by the acronym SMD. In the study, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers found a very different pattern in children with SMD, compared with children who had bipolar disorder when the brain's electrical signals were measured during mild frustrating situations. Dr. Ellen Leibenluft, Chief of the Unit on Bipolar Spectrum Disorders in the Emotion and Development Branch of the NIMH Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program, said the results indicate that different brain mechanisms may lead to irritability in children with SMD, suggesting that they may have an illness other than bipolar disorder and may require different treatments.
Leibenluft: The treatment might differ depending on whether or not these children have SMD or they have bipolar disorder.
Akinso: The classic definition of bipolar disorder includes extreme, sustained mood swings that range from over-excited, elated moods and irritability to depression. In contrast, children with SMD are extremely irritable and hyperactive, but do not have clear-cut manic episodes. Dr. Leibenluft said the researchers could observe the brain's electrical signals that occur during frustration as children with either disorder perform simple tasks.
Leibenluft: The main significance of these results is that when we think about diagnosing psychiatric illnesses we have to look not just at how children are behaving and how they say they're feeling. That's all very important, but in addition we also have to be looking at what's going on inside their brains. And then eventually being able to do so with things like EEG and neuroimaging techniques like functional MRI; the fact that we can now see the brain at work means that ultimately we'll be able to do a much better job of diagnosing both children and adults.
Akinso: Dr. Leibenluft said the study shows that clinicians some day could use biological measurements, such as EEGs, to help psychiatric diagnoses, in combination with clinical symptoms. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Ellen Leibenluft
Topic: Childhood Mental Disorders