Unbalanced Body and Mind

Bipolar mind-body connection may lead to new treatments

(RxWiki News) Interestingly, people who have psychiatric disorders typically have balance problems. This mind-body connection may hold keys to new treatment directions.

A new study suggests that having difficulty balancing oneself and other motor control issues actually may be related to - not just a symptom of - mood, psychiatric and neurological disorders. If so, new treatment avenues may open.

"Ask your therapist about mood or psychiatric disorders."

If maintaining balance while standing upright is indeed a core component of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Parkinsons and Huntingtons disease, as the study indicates, researchers say it's possible these issues could appear before other symptoms.

So balance problems may indicate an increased risk for these disorders.

"Our study suggests that brain areas traditionally believed to be responsible for motor behavior might represent therapeutic targets for bipolar disorder," said Amanda R. Bolbecker, research scientist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Indiana University's College of Arts and Sciences.

It is known that the parts of the brain that control motor functions - the cerebellum, basal ganglia and brain stem - also regulate moods. Abnormalities in these areas are common in people with bipolar disorder.

Postural sway measures all the muscular adjustments people make to stand still.

The study involved two groups of 16 age-matched people. One group of people had bipolar disorder, while people in the other group had no psychiatric disorders.

Those people with bipolar disorder had more postural sway, particularly when their eyes were closed.

One of the limitations of the study is that researchers could not factor out the effects of the various kinds of medications taken by the people with bipolar disorder.

Nonetheless, Bolbecker says these findings raise the question of whether therapies that improve motor symptoms may also help mood disorders.

This study was published in the Public Library of Science ONE.

Review Date: 
May 27, 2011