Mechanisms of emotional processing in bipolar affective disorders

This research project aims at developing new insights into the aetiology of bipolar, in other words manic-depressive disorders und therewith at improving treatment effectiveness. Bipolar disorders are characterized by emotional instability, which is reflected in increased emotional sensitivity and neuronal hyperresponsiveness to emotional stimuli. Previous studies on bipolar patients payed little attention to central mechanisms of emotional processing; this applies in particular to early attention and subsequent regulatory processes. The present research program investigates mechanisms of emotional processing, using specific experimental designs on various response levels in manic, depressive and euthymic bipolar patients, in patients with unipolar depression, in first-degree relatives of bipolar and unipolar patients as well as in healthy controls. This research approach enables the identification of dysfunctional mechanisms of emotional processing in bipolar patients. Furthermore, it allows for answering whether these deficits can be regarded as independent of symptoms, pertaining across diagnoses or whether they are rather disorder-specific, making them potential candidates for vulnerability markers for bipolar disorders.

Duration of study:
December 2008 – December 2015

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Emmy Noether-Förderung (We3638/3-1)

Prof. Dr. Michèle Wessa (principal investigator),
Dipl.-Psych. Sandra Schönfelder