We are using new, cutting-edge imaging techniques to find a way of diagnosing bipolar disorder using a simple brain scan. Our aim is to reduce the burden of this illness on individuals and the community by ensuring patients receive appropriate and timely treatment.

Bipolar disorder has severe symptoms and is the sixth leading cause of disability in Australia, affecting approximately 1.8 per cent of Australians at some point in their lives and costing $1.6 billion a year. The major challenge for doctors is to differentiate bipolar disorder from other recurrent unipolar or major depressive disorders, meaning most people do not receive the correct diagnosis and treatment for almost five to 10 years from onset of this disorder.

We hope to develop an objective test for bipolar disorder using ‘connectomics’, a new technique that maps the structural and functional connections in the brain. Identifying the network changes in the brain early in the course of the disease will enable clinicians to make a clear diagnosis and start appropriate treatment earlier, thus averting the chance of suicide and the other costs associated with bipolar disorder.