As growing numbers of children are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, scientists are turning to sophisticated imaging and other techniques for measuring brain activity in those affected. The goal is to better understand the underlying pathophysiology of early onset bipolar disorder and to improve classification and, ultimately, treatment of younger patients with the disease. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder in children and adolescents is believed to be at least as common as it is in the adult population, based on study findings that 1% of adolescents aged 14 to 18 years met the criteria for the disorder or for cyclothymia, a similar but milder disorder (Lewinsohn PM et al. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1995;34:454-463). Yet there are controversies about diagnosing the condition in children, whose symptoms may differ from those seen in adults. Scientists hope studies aimed at elucidating the brain mechanisms that underlie the disorder in children will resolve this diagnostic dilemma.
Kuehn BM. Scientists Probe Child Bipolar Disorder. JAMA. 2007;297(11):1181. doi:10.1001/jama.297.11.1181