Cerebral Hemispheres 2
NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED

NEUROSCIENCE MADE SIMPLER

Unraveling the Mystery of Mania


Bipolar disorder (BPD) is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the world, affecting close to six million people in the U.S. alone. It is characterized by severe shifts of mood between stages of depression and mania. The depression involves traditional symptoms of a depressive episode, such as hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, and disruption of sleeping patterns. The manic episodes are what you might consider the exact opposite of depression, manifesting as drastically increased energy, euphoria, lack of inhibition, and delusions of grandeur. Many psychiatrists believe BPD is underdiagnosed, but it is also a term that is overused colloquially (much like depression), at least in my experience. Often someone will refer to an acquaintance as bipolar, meaning he or she has frequent mood swings. BPD is marked by severe changes in mood that last for several days at a time, quite unlike the sudden shift your significant other might experience when he/she hasn’t had their coffee yet.

BPD involves a spectrum of symptoms, and sorting out the mechanisms behind its occurrence has been expectedly complicated. No single gene has been identified as being responsible for BPD, and its complexity has prohibited scientists from being able to recreate the disorder reliably in animals for study. Recently, however, a group of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified a gene that seems to be related to manic states in mice.

The gene, GRIK2 (glutamate receptor, ionotropic, kainite 2), encodes for a glutamate receptor, specifically glutamate receptor 6 (GluR6). Glutamate is the predominant excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GRIK2 has attracted a lot of attention in BPD research since it was found to be associated with suicidal ideation brought on by antidepressant treatment. People with BPD are more prone to treatment-induced suicidal ideation, leading the group at NIH to investigate this gene in regards to BPD.

The group created knockout (KO) mice that lacked the GRIK2 gene and compared their behavior with control mice. KO organisms are those that have been genetically engineered to carry an inoperable version of a gene. This allows researchers to juxtapose their behavior with that of other animals that have the gene, and thus isolate the effect that the gene has.

The KO mice exhibited behavior that was consistent with mania. This was measured with a battery of tests, which showed the mice to be more aggressive, more active, and less inhibited. They were also overly sensitive to amphetamine administration, and their hyperactivity was mitigated by the administration of lithium, a mood stabilizer and common treatment for BPD.

This research is important, as scientists may now have an animal model for the manic episodes of BPD. The group does point out, however, that it is unknown whether GRIK2 is involved in the cyclic nature of BPD, or if it causes the euphoric and mind-altering aspects of a manic episode. While there is still much to be understood about the disorder, this may be an integral step toward elucidating its perplexing mechanism.

YOUR BRAIN, EXPLAINED

Sleep. Memory. Pleasure. Fear. Language. We experience these things every day, but how do our brains create them? Your Brain, Explained is a personal tour around your gray matter. Building on neuroscientist Marc Dingman’s popular YouTube series, 2-Minute Neuroscience, this is a friendly, engaging introduction to the human brain and its quirks using real-life examples and Dingman’s own, hand-drawn illustrations.

  • Reading like a collection of detective stories, Your Brain, Explained combines classic cases in the history of neurology with findings stemming from the latest techniques used to probe the brain’s secrets. - Stanley Finger, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Washington University (St. Louis), author, Origins of Neuroscience

  • An informative, accessible and engaging book for anyone who has even the slightest interest in how the brain works, but doesn’t know where to begin. - Dean Burnett, PhD, author, Happy Brain and Idiot Brain

  • ...a highly readable and accessible introduction to the operation of the brain and current issues in neuroscience... a wonderful introduction to the field. - Frank Amthor, PhD, Professor of Psychology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, author, Neuroscience for Dummies

  • Dingman weaves classic studies with modern research into easily digestible sections, to provide an excellent primer on the rapidly advancing field of neuroscience. - Moheb Costandi, author, Neuroplasticity and 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know

BIZARRE

This book shows a whole other side of how brains work by examining the most unusual behavior to emerge from the human brain. In it, you'll meet a woman who is afraid to take a shower because she fears her body will slip down the drain, a man who is convinced he is a cat, a woman who compulsively snacks on cigarette ashes, and many other unusual cases. As uncommon as they are, each of these cases has something important to teach us about everyday brain function.

  • A unique combination of storytelling and scientific explanation that appeals to the brain novice, the trained neuroscientist, and everyone in between. Dingman explores some of the most fascinating and mysterious expressions of human behavior in a style that is case study, dramatic novel, and introductory textbook all rolled into one. - Alison Kreisler, PhD, Neuroscience Instructor, California State University, San Marcos

  • Through case studies of both exceptional people as well as those with disorders, Bizarre takes us on a fascinating journey in which we learn more about what is going on in our skull. - William J. Ray, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, author, Abnormal Psychology

  • Bizarre is a collection of stories of how the brain can create zombies, cult members, extra limbs, instant musicians, and overnight accents, to name a few of the mind-scratching cases. After reading this book, you will walk away with a greater appreciation for this bizarre organ. If you are a fan of Oliver Sacks' books, you're certain to be a fan of Dingman's Bizarre. - Allison M. Wilck, PhD, Researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Eastern Mennonite University

  • Dingman brings the history of neuroscience back to life and weaves in contemporary ideas seamlessly. Readers will come along for the ride of a really interesting read and accidentally learn some neuroscience along the way. - Erin Kirschmann, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology & Counseling, Immaculata University