Neural changes in youth at high risk for bipolar disorder undergoing family-focused therapy or psychoeducation

Amy S. Garrett, Kiki D. Chang, Manpreet K. Singh, Casey C. Armstrong, Patricia D. Walshaw, David J. Miklowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Patients with mood disorders may benefit from psychosocial interventions through changes in brain networks underlying emotion processing. In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate treatment-related changes in emotion processing networks in youth at familial high risk for bipolar disorder (BD). Methods: Youth, ages 9–17, were randomly assigned to family-focused therapy for high-risk youth (FFT-HR) or an active comparison treatment, Enhanced Care (EC). Before and after these 4-month treatments, participants underwent fMRI while viewing happy, fearful, and calm facial expressions. Twenty youth in FFT-HR and 20 in EC were included in analyses of pre- to post-treatment changes in activation across the whole brain. Significant clusters were assessed for correlation with mood symptom improvement. Results: In the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), activation increased from pre- to post-treatment in the FFT-HR group and decreased in the EC group. Insula activation decreased in the FFT-HR group and did not change in the EC group. Across both treatments, decreasing activation in the hippocampus and amygdala was correlated with pre- to post-treatment improvement in hypomania, while increasing activation in the DLPFC was correlated with pre- to post-treatment improvement in depression. Discussion: Psychosocial treatment addresses abnormalities in emotion regulation networks in youth at high risk for BD. Increased prefrontal cortex activation suggests enhanced emotion regulation from pre- to post-treatment with FFT-HR. Improvements in family interactions may facilitate the development of prefrontal resources that provide protection against future mood episodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBipolar disorders
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • mood disorder
  • neuroimaging
  • psychotherapy
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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