Genetics, Brain Structure, and Behavior Paper (Bipolar Disorder)

Let’s say that a particular individual seems sad a lot of the time. Yet there are times when this particular individual wears flamboyant clothes, goes on shopping sprees, and seems a little ‘over the top’ with delusions of grandeur (Read and Purse, 2009). This person could be very moody and with no apparent explanation. It could be that the person suffers from bi-polar disorder. Bipolar disorder causes a person to have extreme mood swings and is often confused with other types of depression (, 2009). The mood swings are described as episodes, and there are different levels of bipolar disorder. So what causes this disorder to happen? How does it affect people differently? And is it treatable/curable? These are a few of the topics that will be covered. 

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Behavioral changes in those suffering from bipolar disorder change from patient to patient. The most commonly seen behavioral changes occur when the individual is in either a manic or depressed state. In a depressed state, the patient could be quiet, withdrawn or detached from those around them, lose their appetite and have increased sleeping habits. (Kalat, 2004) And the manic states are characterized by almost the exact opposite behaviors. The person can be restless, aggressive, easily irritated, excited, have uncontrollable laughter and rambling speech. Also, the person’s self-confidence seems to rise while the level of inhibitions seems to deteriorate. (Kalat, 2004) As the individual moves through these cycles behaviors could take anywhere from a day to a week to change and it is exhausting for the patient to go through different states. (Kalat, 2004) 

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is caused by many factors. “The diagnosis of bipolar disorder is based on the patient’s signs and symptoms, the course of the illness, and family history when available (Murphy, 2006, p.60).” One main reason for the onset of the illness is not specifically known although research suggests that bipolar disorder is a biological disorder (Bressert, 2007, p.1). Genetics appears to be a common factor among individuals who have bipolar disorder. “A person who has one parent with bipolar disorder has a 15 to 25 percent chance of having the condition (Bressert, 2007, p.1).” Bipolar disorder is caused by a malfunction of neurotransmitters (Bressert, 2007, p.1). The illness can remain dormant or triggered at any time by any life event. Bipolar disorder often surfaces with young adults with the onset of a traumatic experience or a stressful event. Men and women are both affected by bipolar disorder yet men appear to experience more manic episodes than a woman. The illness is very common however, often individuals are misdiagnosed or untreated for extended periods which causes worse conditions. 

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 Treatments and future research for prevention or cure for the illness

“Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that causes people to alternate between episodes of depression and episodes of high energy or irritability (mania). In many people, episodes of either depression or mania are followed by periods of normal functioning. Bipolar disorder is also called manic-depressive illness. The cause of the bipolar disorder is not completely understood, but it may be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not known what causes this chemical imbalance. The disorder may run in families. Bipolar disorder occurs equally among males and females. It often begins between the ages of 15 and 24. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but medicines and counseling may help control the symptoms. Seizure medicines and lithium are often used to treat bipolar disorder.”(Curtis, 2008) 

Currently, this condition is treated with the close monitoring of drugs accompanied by therapy sessions. The most effective drug to treat this chemical imbalance is lithium. “The evidence from a large number of clinical trials shows that lithium improves manic depression and reduces the risk of relapse. Although the results of these studies vary, it is probably fair to say that 80 percent of bipolar patients respond positively to lithium. According to Lickey and Gordon (1991), without lithium, the typical bipolar patient has a manic episode about every 14 months, whereas this mood swing occurs only every nine years if lithium is taken. To provide this type of protection, lithium has to be taken on a daily basis, although if the patient is carefully monitored there is little risk of toxicity or serious side-effects.” (Wickens, 2005)

Some other drugs are “those with bimodal stabilizing properties, such as lithium, carbamazepine, and quetiapine. In fact, on the strength of favorable efficacy data obtained in patients with major depressive symptoms accompanying the bipolar disorder, quetiapine recently became the first agent to be indicated by the FDA for monotherapeutic use in the treatment of bipolar depression, including BPII depression. Aside from the aforementioned agents, lamotrigine also shows promise in the treatment of BPII.” (El-Mallakh, 2006)

The future treatment of this illness lies in the discovery of the gene that causes the condition in the DNA; science has yet to discover and correct the deficiency on the DNA for the prevention and eradication of the problem. This, however, has not been done. “In fact, evidence suggests that a single dominant gene is responsible for bipolar disorder, although the identification of this gene has yet to be achieved (Spence et al. 1995).”(Wickens, 2005) Until then, doctors will continue to correct the imbalance with drugs and closely monitored one on one therapy session as well as with experimental clinical trials. 

References (2009). What is Bi-Polar Disease? GlaxoKlineSmith. Retrieved April 2nd, 2009 from

Bressert, S. (2007, February). The causes of bipolar disorder. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from

Curtis, Jeannette. (2008). Bipolar disorder. WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise. Retrieved March 4, 2009, from

El-Mallakh, R. (2006). Bipolar II disorder: current and future treatment options. Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from 

Kalat, James W. (2004) Biological Psychology. 8e. Wadsworth: Thomson Learning, Inc.

Murphy, K. (2006, October). Managing the ups and downs of bipolar disorder. Nursing, 36(10), 58-64.Retrieved April 5, 2009, from EBSCOHost database.         

Read, K. and Purse, M. (2009). How to Recognize a Manic Episode. Disorder. Retrieved April 2nd, 2009 from

Wickens, Andrew (2005). Foundations of Biopsychology (2nd ed.). England, Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Paper Topic

  • Based on your selected illness, prepare a 1,400 to 1,750-word paper in which you analyze the impact of deteriorating brain structure on behavior. In your analysis be sure to address the following:
    • Describe your selected illness.
    • Explain the neurological damage/changes to the brain as a result of your selected illness.
    • Explain the behavioral/functional changes that can occur as a result of your selected illness.
    • Determine the national and/or international incidence of the illness.
    • Describe the suspected or known causes for the illness.
    • Discuss treatments and future research for the prevention or cure of the illness.
    • Analyze the role of genetics on the onset of the illness.

Be sure to include at least three references in your paper from scholarly (peer-reviewed) sources.

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