Stress and Your Brain

Stress has a major affect on our bodies and our brain. The release of catecholamines (adrenaline and related chemicals) and cortisol causes significant changes throughout our body that are designed to prepare us for “fight or flight.” By shutting down all non-essential functions the stress response system prepares us for a life and death struggle Nowadays there are no life …

Kindling

What do small sticks used to start a fire have to do with bipolar moods? Not much… Kindling in the context of this post refers to a phenomenon that is well documented in some people with seizure disorders and which may have relevance to some people with bipolar moods. Bob Post, who was for many years Chief of the Biological …

On the Borderline

I am writing a presentation for the UCSF Bipolar Program on the topic of the relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts in a quick post. Borderline personality disorder involves a “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity” which begins by early adulthood …

Fish Oil Update

Since so many people with bipolar and depression take fish oil we thought we would pass on some information in a summary form from Consumer Labs. The full information is available if you subscribe. Consumer Labs is the only source of reliable information about supplements (the only place that does any testing) and if you take supplements we strongly encourage …

Sleep and Memory

An interesting story published in the New York Times suggests that the reason we are less able to remember things as we get older is that we sleep less well. The article is based on a report posted online on Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The report suggests that as the brain ages, changes take place that interfere with sleep quality, which …

Borderline Emotions

Originally, the label “borderline personality disorder” was applied to patients who were thought to somewhere  between patients with neurotic and psychotic disorders in terms of psychopathology. Increasingly, though, this area of research has focused on the heightened emotional reactivity observed in patients carrying this diagnosis, as well as the high rates with which they also meet diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic …

Of Two Minds

This morning I was thinking about the relationship between your pre-frontal cortex and your limbic system. I know, it’s a little strange to be having these thoughts while out riding a bicycle in the morning… a hazard of the profession I guess. The reason I was thinking about this subject is that people’s moods appear to be affected by both …

Exercise and Brain Health

According to the Exercise and Brain Health: Good Points to Remember article in the December 27, 2012 issue of Bipolar Network News, “(…) exercise is extremely important in (…) helping to improve depressed mood, increasing cardiovascular fitness, and maintaining healthy cognition.” It is also suggested that aerobic fitness may increase the size of the hippocampus which in turn decreases risk factors for …

Bipolar Brains

After years of trying, a group of researchers down at UCLA (led by Lori Altshuler) may have succeeded in identifying important changes in brain function that are associated with bipolar moods. They have found two specific areas of the brain that show pretty consistent changes associated with bipolar. One area (the orbitofrontal cortex) is generally less activated in bipolar, no …

Mood and Food

Many people have an intuitive sense that a good diet is a foundation stone of good mental health. We don’t disagree, although the evidence for dietary manipulation’s effectiveness is not overwhelming. There are a couple of things that we have noticed over the years about food and its effect on mood that might be useful tips. For one thing, simple …

Self-Consciousness: You Can’t Fool Yourself

Many years ago we read a book by renowned social psychologist George Herbert Meade entitled Mind, Self and Society. In it Meade wrote about the origins of self-consciousness in childhood experiences. If you follow the development of children you notice that at first they act as though they and the world are one, with no apparent sense of others (especially …

What is Hypomania?

What is hypomania (“a little mania”) and what changes when you are hypomanic? Depending on where you sit it can be the most desirable state conceivable or a mood that is terribly destructive to relationships. We often say that hypomania is a symptom that rarely motivates people for treatment, but often motivates a spouse or partner to insist on treatment. …