Depression

The Junior Research Bipolar Foundation


The Junior Research Bipolar Foundation

Turning the Corner on Treatment

Ten years of JBRF-supported research has turned an important corner, both for families that suffer with bipolar disorder and for psychiatric research in general.  Quite simply, this line of research has:

  • Defined a specific syndrome based on heritable features (which indicate genetic causation rather than environmental influences).
  • Delineated a hypothesis of the underlying biology which can account for the entire symptom profile and identified a likely biomarker for the condition which will make a “test” possible.
  • Suggested a treatment approach based on that hypothesis which, in preliminary trials, has reversed the symptoms of the condition in a sustained manner. 

The Junior Research Bipolar Foundation

Turning the Corner on Treatment

Ten years of JBRF-supported research has turned an important corner, both for families that suffer with bipolar disorder and for psychiatric research in general.  Quite simply, this line of research has:

  • Defined a specific syndrome based on heritable features (which indicate genetic causation rather than environmental influences).
  • Delineated a hypothesis of the underlying biology which can account for the entire symptom profile and identified a likely biomarker for the condition which will make a “test” possible.
  • Suggested a treatment approach based on that hypothesis which, in preliminary trials, has reversed the symptoms of the condition in a sustained manner. 

These research benchmarks are the gold standard in all branches of medicine and until now have been unattainable in psychiatry.  To witness the treatment results has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The specific syndrome to which we refer is the proposed Fear of Harm (FOH) subtype of bipolar disorder which we have discussed in previous News Flashes.  This novel perspective of the illness points to a complex set of brain areas and functions which integrate signals of arousal, fear, and hunger…some of our most basic systems of survival.  (Arousal is expressed in terms of sleep, wake, vigilance, attention, and, when extreme, depression and mania.)  Thermoregulation plays a crucial role in the integration of these signals.  Further research has indicated that children with this sub-type have a thermoregulatory deficit. As such, treatments were selected for their thermal cooling properties and each treatment has proven to be extremely effective.

During the past year, eleven out of eleven severely ill children and one young adult (ages range from 8-27), each of whom have tried numerous medications over a prolonged period of time with little success, have been treated in a protocol consistent with the findings.  This treatment resulted in the almost total elimination of symptoms and an improvement in function in social, cognitive and personal achievement.   

We have included on our website a list of the symptoms that define this sub-type as well as another list which clusters the symptoms into the dimensions of behavior which characterize the profile.  This subtype is called Fear of Harm (FOH) due to the distorted perception of threat which is an important part of the profile.  This perception of threat is highly correlated with aggressive behavior.  Approximately 2/3 of the children who would receive a diagnosis of BP I, II or NOS would likely be on this spectrum. 

We know that this is the type of information you are hungry for.  We believe we have pushed open a door in psychiatric research that has never before been opened.  Having stepped through that door, we find ourselves on a road of productive inquiry which will continue to point us to ever more effective treatment options.  The first stop on that road has already yielded the dramatic results described above.  This milestone is likely to bring significant improvement in the lives of many children and their families.  Unfortunately, we have to hold our collective breath a bit longer before it can have wide application.  While we have confidence in the research, it is absolutely essential that we turn preliminary findings into established, proven data.  Until that happens, this research remains just a good idea, not an actionable opportunity.  Our immediate and very important goal is to conduct a double-blind placebo controlled study of the treatment in children who are defined by this syndrome.  

We all want this to happen.  Together, we can make it happen.  We’ve all seen enough evidence lately that small amounts add up to make big goals possible.  The study is not absurdly expensive nor will it take forever to complete.  We expect that, once funded, we can complete the study in approximately 18 months.  During that time, we will update you and let you know other ways that you can help to push this thing through.

To see the lists of symptoms associated with the FOH phenotype click here.

To learn a bit more about why this line of research has been successful when others have not click here.

 jbrf.org/

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