Bipolar Disorder is a highly heritable mood disorder characterised by oscillating periods of depression and mania. Previous research has established that this illness is accompanied by widespread changes in brain structure and function. However, the causes of these changes remain unknown. Are these changes a result of the illness process? Are they a product of the medications used to manage Bipolar symptoms? Do they represent the underlying cause of the clinical symptoms observed in this disorder? The Bipolar “Kids and Sibs” Study attempts to answer these questions by studying the young first-degree relatives of Bipolar Disorder patients, who are at increased risk of developing Bipolar Disorder or another related mental illness in the future themselves. As these young “at-risk” individuals have not received a Bipolar diagnosis and are free from medication, they provide a unique opportunity to examine brain differences that relate to both risk for and resilience to Bipolar Disorder.
The aim of this study is to identify neuroimaging biomarkers that may differentiate individuals who will ultimately go on to develop Bipolar Disorder or another mental illness, from individuals who are resilient and will remain well. This may assist in identifying those who are most at risk before they become unwell, and allow for interventions that prevent progression to illness or minimise the impact of this condition.