Written by: Tim Wayne
Like many mental illnesses, the causes of bipolar disorder are not entirely known. But thanks to years of research, we do know that our brains’ physiology plays a significant role.
With the help of brain imaging technology, we know that individuals with bipolar disorder have differences in brain structure and functionality. One MRI study found that adults with this condition have smaller prefrontal cortexes – a part of the brain involved with decision making. With this knowledge in mind, healthcare professionals are better able to diagnose abnormal brain development associated with bipolar disorder to offer early intervention.
However, these imaging tools can do much more than just diagnose mental conditions. One emerging field of counseling called neurocounseling is using these tools to help create treatment plans and measure the impact of therapy. In particular, one technique that could benefit a bipolar disorder treatment plan is called neurofeedback training.
In neurofeedback training, patients are connected to a computer which charts their brain waves. Patients are provided a reward for regulating their brain waves, such as music or a film; this rewarding stimulus is cut off when engaging in undesirable brain activity. By rewarding self-regulation, those with bipolar disorder can learn to identify and control activity associated with their symptoms.
While neurofeedback helps to illustrate how brain imaging can directly lead to treatment, it’s only a small part of a larger picture. The benefits of neurocounseling for healthcare professionals in terms of diagnosis and measuring the efficacy of treatment may make a substantial difference in how bipolar disorder is treated in the future.
Learn more about neurocounseling and how it is being used to address a wide range of mental conditions and disorders in the infographic below, created for Bradley University’s Online Counseling Program.