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Past Studies

Bipolar InflammAging (Smartphone) Study

The goal of this study is to better understand the role of changes in mood and inflammatory function on cognitive aging in bipolar disorder. The function of factors important for the immune system, such as inflammatory cytokines, can change with age and predict cognitive decline in mentally healthy individuals, and levels of cytokines appear to be abnormal in individuals with bipolar disorder.

In this investigation, we hope to discover how fluctuations in these cytokine levels and in mood affect long-term cognitive decline in bipolar disorder. We will use smartphone and activity-monitoring technology, along with in-person assessment visits to test day-to-day and year-to-year relationships among these variables.


Schizophrenia Inflammation Imaging Study

The goal of the study was to find out more about how the immune system may affect the brain in schizophrenia. The study examined how blood-based biomarkes of inflammation may be related to cognitive functioning, and brain structure and function using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Preliminary Research Findings:

  • Certain inflammatory markers were significantly higher in bipolar participants (BD) than in healthy comparison (HC) participants, and certain inflammatory markers were higher in those with more severe depression and mania.
  • BD participants had higher intra-individual variability in certain inflammatory markers than HC participants. We also found that a different combination of inflammatory markers were related to ageing in BD and HC participants.
  • The use of more psychotropic medications related to lower inflammation.
  • BD participants slept less and had more variable sleep efficiency than HC participants.
  • Average mood ratings reflected by the smart phone surveys were found to be a valid measure of depression levels, and the variability in mood ratings determined using smart phone surveys were a good measure of the severity of mania symptoms.
  • Age was not significantly related to mean levels of inflammatory markers in HC participants. However, we found that older men had higher levels of certain inflammatory markers than younger men, while older women were found to have higher mean levels of C-reactive protein than younger women.
  • BD participants reported higher self-reported stress in comparison to the HC group; BD women were more stressed than BD men, but there were no gender differences in stress levels in the HC group.
  • There was no difference in the individual variation in stress between the BD and HC groups however we did find a relationship between within-person variation in stress and a certain inflammatory marker, suggesting an important relationship between stress regulation and inflammation.
  • We found a relationship between blood pressure and cognition in the BD sample.
  • Patients who had lower amounts of daily movement measured using actigraphy performed worse on a measure of executive functioning.


Bipolar Aging and Imaging Study

We conducted a research study about brain aging with individuals who have a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder. We used functional and structural neuroimaging techniques along with other measures to assess how aging may differentially affect individuals with bipolar disorder as compared to those without the disorder. Data from this study will contribute to Global Neuroimaging analysis through the ENIGMA Bipolar Disorder Working Group.


Psychobiology of Cognition and Positive Traits in Aging

We were interested in understanding how individual levels of compassion, empathy, and other positive psychological traits (for example, resilience and optimisum) related to differences in brain function and well-being across the lifespan. To understand these differences, we used multiple methods, including those from cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, biology, psychiatry, social psychology, and medical anthrolopology.