My name is Chassy! I am a bear. A brainy bear. I talk about brains because want to be a brainscientist! I want to share the things I've learned and help people understand themselves.
I've got a personal blog, so if you still want to follow me and be my friend, please go to that one!!
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Bupropion is also known as Wellbutrin. It is completely unique in that it doesn’t affect serotonin like citalopram fluoxetine do; it uses dopamine and noradrenaline instead. It can be used on depression, bipolar, and nicotine addiction.
While SSRIs decrease libido, bupropion actually increases it. It also reduces fatigue and even causes temporary weight loss. Pretty awesome!
It acts just the same as in SSRIs, which is stopping reuptake. Basically it’s stopping the janitors from sweeping it away so that the receptors can use it for longer. Unfortunately too much of this can mimic the problems of schizophrena, even seizures, due to so much activity in the dopamine pathways. That also means that people with bipolar have to be ultra careful when using it.
If I’ve studied them at least |Da
Short answer: Yes….ish.
Long answer: Depends on what you mean ‘the same way’ and also which medication you’re looking at. They don’t focus on giving your brain fertilizer like antidepressants do, but they do have some interesting things that are beneficial to your brain. Honestly though we know even less about bipolar than we do depression, so there’s a lot of research to go.
That said, we do know what some of the meds do, so let me go down the list and give you a rough breakdown:
Lithium and Valproate: Promotes cell growth/survival, shows promise of preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Is also an antioxidant. Valproate even alters your DNA to make your cells stronger! It’s also capable of increasing BDNF and brain volume. But these can be risky drugs, especially lithium.
Lamotrigine: Studies have shown protecting neurons in people with traumatic brain injury, and it also promotes growth/survival for cells the same way as the other two above. Neuromodulators in general seem to improve function and stabilize the chemical processes going on.
Antipsychotics can be used with traditional antidepressants - not because you’re psychotic, but because it’s shown that these medicines are excellent in regulating manic episodes, while the antidepressants can do their work on feeding your brain some good BDNF.
Actually, you know what? If you’d like you can tell me some of your medications, and I’d be glad to write about their neurological effects. It’d help a lot of other people too who are either taking them or considering them. :D I’d like to do some drug-related posts. After….my essays and projects, though, which might be the end of this week, with luck.
(Also, I misworded a few things in the last ask: less volume in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, not frontal/limbic areas!)
Of course! I don’t know as much in detail, but from what I can pull off the top of my head, people with bipolar depression are similar to those with unipolar depression in that they have depressed function in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. They also have overactivity in the limbic area (especially the amygdala, the core of basic emotion), and underactivity in the frontal regions, especially in the parts that allow one to control their emotions. However, activity really changes depending on the state someone is in. For example, in depression there is even less activity in the frontal region.
Just like in unipolar depression, bipolar has less volume in those two areas, as well as lowered BDNF, the brain fertilizer. BUT the main difference between these two is that there is a LOT of evidence pointing to actual cell death in those areas, as opposed to the ‘eh maybe’ response to garden-variety depression.
There is a theory that those with bipolar have a brain that is very optimistic in its recovery - a bit too much, really. So much that every now and then it perks up and goes, ‘my god, today’s the day I’m not depressed anymore!’ and then goes out on a huge manic episode, which of course ends up making you feel worse because you’ve just overcharged yourself and may have gotten more damage than repair. Evidence that points to this is the fact that if people with bipolar are given your run-of-the-mill antidepressants, their brain overreacts and triggers a manic episode.
Unfortunately, science isn’t really too great when it comes to handling bipolar. Most medicines want to pin bipolar as a cross between depression, epilepsy, and schizophrenia, which is…not very great, at all. Even though everyone is HUGELY interested in bipolar disorder, the problem is that everyone is just so damn unique that it’s nearly impossible to conduct exact research, if the bipolar isn’t even the same in every person, you know? If you’d like, I’d be happy to provide some primary sources of research to you, though they’re a bit hard to read even for me.
Just send me your email in an ask and I’ll give you what I can find! I really like studying bipolar, when summer rolls around I’ll try to write more about it!
“The functional significance of new hippocampal cells is not clear. In birds, food storage and retrieval experience correlate with changes in hippocampal size and neurogenesis. In mice, neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus increases with exposure to an enriched environment, and it is associated with improved learning.”
- Henriette van Praag, “Running enhances neurogenesis, learning, and long-term potentiation in mice” 1999
It probably doesn’t mean much to you, but to me this really signifies just how far neuroscience has come in the past decade or so. In 1999 we knew that the hippocampus created new neurons, but we had no idea why. Now we do know, at least to an extent. Can you think of what it could be?
The hippocampus isn’t just for making new memories. It also has to do with places, and space. Neurons are made when birds try to memorize where they store food in the woods, and a busy environment for mice means more memorizing in order to move around.
In 2006 we discovered that the hippocampus is way more dense in London taxi drivers than the average person, and the reason is because these people spend like two years training and memorizing their way around the city.
At first it’s kind of weird that the place we make new memories is also where our mental map of the world is, but the examples of the animals show you just how crucial it is out in the wild, and the same is for us humans, too.
And now you know!
Maguire, E. A., Woollett, K., & Spiers, H. J., London Taxi Drivers and Bus Drivers: A Structural MRI and Neuropsychological Analysis (2006)
There is a case study of a middle-aged man who had never done any criminal activity in his life, until he started acting strange. He began collecting child pornography and hitting on his 13-year old stepdaughter. He was very quickly caught and convicted with pedophilia.
On the night he was supposed to be sent to prison, he suddenly lost control of his bladder. At first this wasn’t surprising, considering what they do to pedophiles in prison, but someone realized that losing bladder control to such an extent indicated that there was something seriously wrong with his brain.
When they took a brain scan of him they found an absolutely MASSIVE tumor! And it was growing right over his frontal cortex, which deals with reason and inhibition.
And get this: when they took out the tumor, the man went completely back to normal. He was released and went back to not being a creepy fucker.
Until he started doing it again, and when they caught him and did another brain scan, they found the tumor growing back. It was removed, and he went back to normal.
When they interviewed this guy, they asked that now that he’s been through this, should he - and others like him - still be jailed? He said yes, because he knew with rational thought that it was wrong and sick, but he did it anyway.
What does this say about these people? What does it say about other people? Those with depression, those with bipolar, or OCD, or panic? When you know with every rational fiber of your being that what you do and feel is stupid, or wrong, or silly, but you do it or feel it anyway because there is something in your brain preventing you from functioning normally?
The man gave his answer, but it’s not the all end-all and be-all. There is in fact no right answer to this, but it’s certainly food for thought.
The Effort-Driven Reward System is a pathway that converges the striatum, the prefrontal cortex, and the limbic system into the nucleus accumbens. That is, the centers of movement, thought, and emotion all connect into motivation. And this entire road is severely affected by depression.
Can’t summon the energy to move? Striatum.
Can’t concentrate or think rationally? Prefrontal cortex.
Can’t feel happy no matter how hard you try? Limbic system.
Can’t feel motivated to do a damn thing? Nucleus accumbens.
This doesn’t explain all of depression (my other posts talk about that), but it does tell a heck of a lot. This highway is easily damaged by depression, which in turn makes depression even stronger, creating a cycle so destructive you can’t even get out of bed, things are that shit.
And how are you supposed to penetrate it and cut the cycle off? You can’t control the limbic system or nucleus accumbens, because these are located in the midbrain, a place that is pure instinct and no thought.
The keys here are the other two. The prefrontal cortex requires heavy retraining and rewiring through cognitive therapy, which is hard to do if you have no motivation. The other is the striatum, where you have to move in order to jumpstart the system.
The big word though is effort-driven. You can’t just do any movement, you have to do something with meaning. Drawing, writing, cooking, taking up crocheting or building birdhouses - exercise your creativity. Say what you will about your shitty _____, if you look back at a masterpiece that you just created and go holy shit, I fucking made that, I guarantee you’ll feel at least a little pride. And that’s what you’re looking for, trying to penetrate this system.
If you keep exercising your brain, using this effort-driven reward system, and doing what you can to do meaningful work with your hands, you may just kick it back into gear.
Take a walk in the sun.
We humans live for the sun. It does lovely things for us. Not only does it give vitamin D, but it also triggers the clockwork cells in your brain that keep time. Whenever we’re in sunlight, we kind of wind up our internal clocks and correct the time that we made before.
These clocks are insanely important in running the system - you probably don’t notice much, but your brain keeps a careful schedule of events and activities. You’re more tired in the evening/morning, you get hungry midday, you even have a peak in energy at the same time every day. What time these things happen depends on your genetic makeup, but they all work by the sun. And if you don’t get these events in your schedule addressed, you can have some moodiness happen as a result, or even a prolonged overall state of negativity and sluggishness.
While people with more severe cases are said to have Seasonal Affective Disorder, who are extremely depressed only in winter, it essentially works that way for all of us. So try your best to recalibrate your internal clock, and go out in the sun. If you aren’t in a sun-friendly place, a brightly-lit room can help out as well, though the sun is always better.
Play with a pet.
There’s a notable study that looked at three groups of high-stress career women who had to read a presentation out loud in a room to a researcher: one alone, one with their best friend, and one with their dog. And for every single one of them, the dog group won. The cortisol levels of the people who read with their dog were lower than both the one alone and with their best friend.
Two groups of children had to read a paper to a researcher, one with a stuffed toy, and one with a dog. They then had their cortisol levels measured. The dog group won.
A high school specializing in troubled children instilled a program where distressed students, instead of being taken to detention, would spend time with a specially trained dog. One student lashed out to the entire classroom because his best friend committed suicide. After half an hour with the dog, he was smiling and even laughed. The program has been wildly successful in treating severely distraught students, putting them back on a path to being able to get out.
Not just dogs, either. Cats in pet therapy heal patients in mental institutions, hospitals, and nurseries, helping them recover faster and better. And even if it doesn’t, seeing an animal eases their depression in their circumstances, enhancing their quality of life.
There’s just something about an animal. They won’t judge you, won’t hate you, won’t say rude things. They listen. They love. They’re there for you. Though the cat’s probably just there because the human serves them for life at the cost of a little drivel.
Pets are amazing little creatures! Love your pet, play with them, give them hugs. If you don’t own an animal, try seeing if a pet-owning friend will let you play with them, or maybe try volunteering at an animal shelter. They will heal you as much as you heal them.