Changes in brain structure in remitted bipolar patients

Macoveanu et al reported in the Journal of Affective Disorders (2023) that compared to controls that remitted bipolar patients had “a decline in total white matter volume over time and they had a larger amygdala volume, both at baseline and at follow-up time. Patients further showed lower cognitive performance at both times of investigation with no significant change over time….Cognitive impairment and amygdala enlargement may represent stable markers of BD early in the course of illness, whereas subtle white matter decline may result from illness progression.”

Long COVID ‘Brain Fog’ Confounds Doctors, but New Research Offers Hope

James C. Jackson, PsyD, a licensed psychologist specializing in neuropsychology and rehabilitation, at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and author of a new book, Clearing the Fog: From Surviving to Thriving With Long COVID ? A Practical Guide, reports in Medscape July, 2023 : “There’s not a lot of imprecision in the term (brain fog) because it might mean different things to different patients,”

Jackson, who began treating [a patient] in February 2023, said that it makes more sense to call brain fog a brain impairment or an acquired brain injury (ABI) because it doesn’t occur gradually. COVID damages the brain and causes injury. For those with long COVID who were previously in the intensive care unit and may have undergone ventilation, hypoxic brain injury may result from the lack of oxygen to the brain.

An April 2022 study published in the journal Nature found strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infection may cause brain-related abnormalities, for example, a reduction in gray matter in certain parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus, and amygdala.

Additionally, white matter, which is found deeper in the brain and is responsible for the exchange of information between different parts of the brain, may also be at risk of damage as a result of the virus, according to a November 2022 study published in the journal SN Comprehensive Clinical Medicine.
Thus, new data suggest that long COVID is associated with inflammation and both reduced volume of several brain structures and decreases in white matter. These data suggest several novel approaches to therapy that require further study. One is low dose lithium which both increases gray matter volume and white matter integrity. Lithium also has some antiviral properties. This could be combined with anti-inflammatories that could be bought over the counter such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), acetyl-L-carnitine, and celecoxib.

Note of caution. This is only an untested hypothesis and would need to be discussed with one’s physician before any of these options are considered.

Metabolic Changes in Brain of Bipolar at Autopsy

Highlights from the International Society for Bipolar Disorders Conference Posters and Presentations, Chicago, June 22-25, 2023

Graeme Preston reported on the brain of autopsied bipolar patients having increases aspartate and citrulline, while those with unipolar depression had decreases in the TCA cycle.

He saw increases in acetyl carnitine in manic bipolar patients versus bipolar depressed patients, which is of interest in relationship to the putative antidepressant effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in animal models of depression and in humans.

Both Obesity and Bipolar Disorders in 2249 Individuals Show White Matter Microstructure Abnormalities

Lorielle Dietze of Dalhousie University “obtained body mass index (BMI) and diffusion tensor imaging derived fractional anisotropy (FA) values from 930 individuals with bipolar disorders (BD), and 1319 control individuals from 20 cohorts in the ENIGMA-BD Working Group.”

They “found that lower FA was associated with both BD and BMI, in five white matter tracts, including the corpus callosum and thalamic radiation. Nine ROIs were correlated with only BD, while higher BMI was uniquely correlated with lower FA in four white matter ROIs.”

They concluded: “For the first time we showed that both obesity and BD demonstrated lower FA in some of the same regions. The impact of obesity may be greater in some tracts in BD individuals.”

Cognitive Function and White Matter Integrity in Individuals With Bipolar Disorder

Highlights from Posters Presented at the Society of Biological Psychiatry Meeting, April 27-29, 2023 in San Diego

Jennifer McDowell reported that they found “significantly reduced FA (fractional anisotropy) values in 85 bipolar probands compared to 66 controls” in multiple (n=8) white matter tracts. There were significantly lower scores in bipolar probands compared to controls on composite scores, ( p = 0.007), verbal fluency, ( p < 0.001), and symbol coding, (p = 0.023). They concluded that: “ Impacted connectivity in critical fiber tracts may be key to understanding the neural underpinnings of deficits, like cognition, observed in this clinical population.”

Editors note: It is of interest that lithium has been shown to normalize some white matter abnormalities in youngsters and help preserve cognitive function in older individuals. On this and many other accounts, way too little lithium is being used in the treatment of patients with bipolar disorder. Lithium not only increases neurogenesis (new grey matter neurons) and hippocampal volume, but also has positive effects on white matter tracts and even increases the length of one’s telomeres (which keeps you more healthy). In other ungrammatical words, “If your brain is not connected right, it don’t work right.”

Higher Brain Temperature in Youth Bipolar Disorder Using a Novel Magnetic Resonance Imaging Approach

Highlights from Posters Presented at the Society of Biological Psychiatry Meeting, April 27-29, 2023 in San Diego

Ben Goldstein of the University of Toronto reported that “Brain temperature was significantly higher in BD (bipolar youth) compared to CG (control group) in the precuneus. Higher ratio of brain temperature-to-CBF [cerebral blood flow] was significantly associated with greater depression symptom severity in both the ACC [anterior cingulate cortex] and precuneus within BD.”

These finding are of particular interest in light of the Unspecified Bipolar Disorder subtype called Temperature and Sleep Dysregulation Disorder (TSDD), where patients are over heated and respond to clonidine and other cooling techniques along with lithium and repeated intranasal ketamine insufflations.

Serotonin is Back

A review by Moncrieff et al in Molecular Psychiatry 2022 concluded that : “there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity.” This was widely reported in the news media.

A new analysis by 26 experts in the field finds many faults with this analysis (Jauhar et al 2023). Instead, they conclude “A more accurate, constructive conclusion would be that acute tryptophan depletion and decreased plasma tryptophan in depression indicate a role for 5-HT in those vulnerable to or suffering from depression, and that molecular imaging suggests the system is perturbed. The proven efficacy of SSRIs in a proportion of people with depression lends credibility to this position.” Long live serotonin’s role in depression.

6 Minutes of Intense Cycling Produces Major Increases in BDNF

Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is necessary for new synapses and call survival.  A new study in J. Physiology (2023) reports that the increases in BDNF from short intense cycling exercise are much greater than from prolonged (90-minute) light cycling.  The authors think that this is cause by the increases in lactate produced which helps up regulate BDNF production. This could be good for fighting depression and Alzheimer’s disease, where BDNF levels are low. 

Bottom line:  If you don’t have much time, bust your buns.

Chronic Fatigue, Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Long COVID Are Strongly Predicted by Neuroimmune and Neuro- Oxidative Pathways Which Are Caused by the Inflammation during Acute Infection

HK Al-Hakeim et al in Michael Maes’ lab report in J. Clinical Medicine (2023) on very important findings about immune and oxidative changes in long COVID with “physio- somatic (chronic fatigue syndrome and somatic symptoms) and affective (depression and anxiety) symptoms. The severity of the long COVID physio-affective phenome is largely predicted by increased peak body temperature (BT) and lowered oxygen saturation (SpO2) during the acute infectious phase…..  We recruited 86 patients with long COVID (3–4 months after the acute phase) and 39 healthy controls and assessed serum C-reactive protein (CRP), caspase 1, interleukin (IL) 1?, IL-18, IL-10, myeloperoxidase (MPO), advanced oxidation protein products (AOPPs), total antioxidant capacity (TAC), and calcium (Ca), as well as peak BT and SpO2 during the acute phase. Results: Cluster analysis revealed that a significant part (34.9%) of long COVID patients (n = 30) show a highly elevated NT (neurotoxicity) index as computed based on IL-1?, IL-18, caspase 1, CRP, MPO, and AOPPs. Partial least squares analysis showed that 61.6% of the variance in the physio-affective phenome of long COVID could be explained by the NT index, lowered Ca, and peak BT/SpO2 in the acute phase and prior vaccinations with AstraZeneca or Pfizer. The most important predictors of the physio-affective phenome are Ca, CRP, IL-1?, AOPPs, and MPO. Conclusion: The infection–immune–inflammatory core of acute COVID-19 strongly predicts the development of physio-affective symptoms 3–4 months later, and these effects are partly mediated by neuro-immune and neuro-oxidative pathways.”

Editors Note:  These finding are important as they may lead to new treatment interventions.  BNN readers are reminded of a previous BNN article by investigators from Yale (written by by Isabella Backman on Dec. 13, 2022) that in a new case study, they found that guanfacine plus N-acetylcysteine (which is an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and glutathione precursor) “mitigated and sometimes eliminated the cognitive impairment known as “brain fog” that often accompanies long COVID.

Adolescent Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol  induces long-term neuronal  disturbances in dorsal vs. ventral hippocampus

December 6, 2022 · Posted in Neurobiology, Neurochemistry, Risk Factors · Comment 

De Felice et al reported in Neuropsychopharmacology (2022) how adolescent THC exposure in a rodent model can induce significant morphological disturbances and glutamatergic signaling abnormalities in the hippocampus.  The dorsal hippocampus is critical for cognitive and contextual processing, whereas the ventral region is critical for affective and emotional processing.  Adolescent THC exposure induces long-lasting memory deficits and anxiety like-behaviors concomitant with a wide range of differential molecular and neuronal abnormalities in dorsal vs. ventral hippocampal regions.

Editors Note:  While these data are in rodents, they provide insights into how THC use in adolescents exerts memory deficits and anxiety-like behavior in adulthood by dysregulation of glutamate signaling in the hippocampus.  These data converge with data in humans.  The bottom line is: use of marijuana in adolescence is not good for brain function, cognition, and behavior in adulthood.

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