December 16, 2018  Print

Research assistant Ana Rita Barreiros received best overall poster at the Society for Mental Health Research Annual Conference.

Ana is researching a potential test for bipolar disorder.

Approximately 40% of people with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder, causing complications for patients. Ana is researching potential biomarkers that could help develop a test for bipolar disorder.

“Misdiagnosis can be a real problem in psychiatry – it can lead to inappropriate treatment that can worsen a patient’s condition and prolong their diagnostic journey,” she explained.

“My research is focused on preventing misdiagnosis by developing an accurate test for bipolar disorder.

“I’m using electroencephalography to look at what is happening inside the brain. This is to identify any biomarkers that could help differentiate bipolar disorder from depression.”

Ana used EEG to investigate event-related potentials (ERP), a measure of brain activity in response to stimuli. She found that a particular brain wave component  involved in attention and decision-making called ‘P300’ was significantly supressed in people with bipolar disorder.

“In healthy people, P300 experiences a high amplitude in response to decision-making,” she said.

“I identified that P300 is supressed in people with bipolar disorder, meaning their brain isn’t reacting to the stimuli.

“In people with bipolar disorder, P300 amplitude was significantly reduced, much more so than in people with depression. This means it could potentially be used as a biomarker in diagnostic tests for bipolar disorder.”

Ana was thrilled to share her results with the scientific community, with the award coming as an unexpected bonus.

“I definitely did not expect to win anything!” she said.

“The biomarker I’ve identified isn’t well studied, so I was really excited to share my findings with the scientific community.

“I’m very encouraged by the award. I see it as the beginning of something bigger.

“It was inspiring to attend and present at the conference and to know that my findings will have an impact in the real world.

“I’m really excited to continue my analysis and work towards a test that could reduce the misdiagnosis of serious mental illness.”

Congratulations, Ana!