A newly developed brain scanning method that measures blood flow to different parts of the brain may help to distinguish between bipolar and unipolar depression, according to a study that got a fair amount of media attention.
The study of 54 adult women used a novel way of measuring brain function called arterial spin labeling (ASL). This approach allowed much better visualization of different parts of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is a part of the brain that is associated with response to emotionally meaningful situations as well as depression.
The scan had an 81% accuracy rate in distinguishing between unipolar depression and bipolar depression. This is certainly better than other studies, and if followup research confirms the finding the accuracy rate will probably improve.
The principal investigator of this study (Mary L Phillips, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh) is quoted by Medscape Medical News as saying, “This is the first time this type of technique has been able to be that accurate in distinguishing between these 2 conditions.”