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Body clock signals bipolar relapse
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Swinburne University

Using a wristwatch-styled device to monitor their sleep and activity levels may help people with bipolar disorder to manage their condition and reduce the incidence of relapse.

Preliminary findings from a study conducted by Dr Greg Murray, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology and his colleagues from Beyond Blue and the Centre for Rural Mental Health suggest that automated monitoring can provide useful information about mood changes for some people with bipolar disorder.

With further research such a strategy could provide ?early warning? of potential relapse, giving the patient and their psychologist time to implement techniques to prevent a full relapse, according to Dr Murray.

The study has been exploring the use of technology to monitor people with bipolar disorder which strikes two in 100 Australians and accounts for 12 per cent of suicides each year.

?Bipolar disorder is characterised by high rates of relapse into episodes of mania and depression,? Dr Murray said.

?A number of studies have shown that relapse, especially into mania, is preceded by consistent and identifiable milder symptoms in the two to four weeks prior to full relapse.

?Our preliminary findings show a reliable correlation between the strength of the patient?s internal body clock and the stability of their mood ? the weaker the clock, the greater the mood variation,? he said.

While this correlation has been long suspected, this study provides the first definitive analysis.

?Our study indicates that monitoring over extended time periods is feasible and may be able to identify signs of imminent relapse and trigger early intervention to minimise the disruption and expense of a full-blown relapse,? Dr Murray said.

Participating patients have been noting their mood and medications daily. They have also been wearing an actigraph, a wristwatch-style device to record activity levels and sleep patterns.

A full report on the study is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

Bipolar disorder sufferers experience bouts of serious depression and high mania in cyclic patterns. Their moods will swing from an extremely high or euphoric mood with some irritation mixed in to being extremely sad and hopeless. Between these two poles of mood swings, the individual will feel completely normal and will not show any signs that they are suffering from erratic moods.
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