October 25, 2021

Investigating the Bipolar Brain

An update on the collaboration between the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program and Chandra Sripada, M.D., Ph.D.

The Sripada Lab, directed by Chandra Sripada, M.D., Ph.D., is now partnering with the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program to better understand brain mechanisms which

Chandra Sripada, M.D., Ph.D headshot
Chandra Sripada, M.D., Ph.D.

contribute to symptoms in bipolar disorder by using both computational psychiatry and network neuroscience. This study focuses on a specific brain process called Efficiency of Evidence Accumulation (EEA), the ability to gather relevant information needed to make decisions. EEA measures the ability of the brain to gather information in noisy background conditions and to select appropriate responses. EEA is altered in people with bipolar disorder, and this contributes to impulsive behaviors and choices. Currently, very little is known about the brain mechanisms behind reduced EEA in bipolar disorder or in any other psychiatric disorder.

Brain Activity Illustration

DIAGRAM: The connections shown here are important for paying attention to the environment
and avoiding distractions.

Findings in the Sripada Lab support a flexible network reconfiguration model of EEA, meaning the brain has the ability to adapt and reconfigure connectivity patterns of brain networks across different task contexts. Patterns of reactions are molded and adapted in different ways according to place and purpose.

Dr. Sripada is testing a novel hypothesis: reduced EEA in bipolar disorder arises from decreased flexibility in brain network reconfiguration. The “bipolar brain” may be challenged when there is a need to be flexible and adapt quickly. This will be tested using a selection of behavioral tasks to measure EEA and complete neuroimaging tasks that measure flexibility of brain network reconfiguration. This project will provide critical insight about how changes in brain networks contribute to cognition differences and impulsivity in bipolar disorder. This may lead to new points of interventions and training strategies to increase the ability of the “bipolar brain” to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing world.