Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Latest news Events PhD ceremonies

The Dysregulated Brain - A psychoimmunological approach to bipolar disorder

A psychoimmunological approach to bipolar disorder
PhD ceremony:dr. B.C.M. (Benno) Haarman
When:March 01, 2017
Supervisors:prof. dr. W.A. (Willem) Nolen, prof. dr. H.A. Drexhage
Co-supervisors:dr. R.F. Riemersma - van der Lek, dr. H. (Huibert) Burger
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
The Dysregulated Brain - A psychoimmunological approach to bipolar

An important problem with psychiatric disorders is that much remains unknown about the underlying disease mechanisms, thereby delaying sometimes for many years the diagnosis bipolar disorder, with significant implications for treatment.

In recent years, the neuroinflammation theory, which assumes that bipolar disorder is amongst others caused by an inflammatory response in the brain, has gained attention. In his thesis Benno Haarman demonstrates by means of positron emission tomography (PET) an actual dysregulation of the immune system in the brain of patients with bipolar disorder. PET is an imaging technique, which is used to examine the function of an organ with radioactive tracers. Haarman compared neuroinflammation-PET images of the brain between patients and healthy persons and showed immune activation in the hippocampus of patients with bipolar disorder. This finding provides an important basis for further research into the disease mechanisms of bipolar disorder.

In the subsequent studies, the relationship between the function of immune cells and the condition of nerve cells with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and the effect of lithium, which is often used for treatment of bipolar disorder, on the connecting tracts in the brain with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of patients with bipolar disorder were studied. Prior to the imaging research, Haarman investigated the relationship between inflammation-related gene expression in cells of the immune system and psychiatric symptoms with a novel graphical 'feature-expression heat map' method he developed. For this achievement he received the Samuel Gershon Award from the International Society for Bipolar Disorders in 2013.