Wearable IT aids bipolar treatment

By Molly Merrill
04:13 PM

A wearable technology that measures physiological signs is poised to help doctors better understand and treat mental illness such as bipolar disorder.

The National Institutes of Mental Health is funding a five-year study on bipolar disorder, which is being led by William Perry, professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego and investigators Mark Geyer, Martin Paulus, MD,  and Arpi Minassian, PhD, also UC San Diego professors of psychiatry.

The study uses a device called the LifeShirt, designed by Ventura, Calif.-based VivoMetrics, Inc., to research movements in subjects with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

"When patients are highly symptomatic, it is sometimes difficult for physicians to diagnose whether an individual is exhibiting signs of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder," said Perry.

LifeShirt provides continuous ambulatory monitoring on pulmonary, cardiac and other physiologic data and correlates them over time.

UC San Diego researchers released a study in 2007 called a "reverse-translational approach," which uses a paradigm originally developed in rodents for human subjects.

In studies researchers found when rodents are given drugs such as amphetamines, or have genetic abnormalities that change brain chemistry, they exhibit distinctive, abnormal movement patterns and difficulties in filtering information. Medications for bipolar disorder normalize these types of behaviors.

In the study, subjects were asked to go into a small room filled with objects and wait unsupervised for 15 minutes before the experiment began  -  unbeknownst to the subjects, this was the actual experiment.