Lisa T. Eyler, Ph.D. and colleagues at the VA San
Diego Healthcare System and the U.C.S.D. Department of Psychiatry are
conducting a research study with individuals who have a diagnosis of Bipolar
Disorder I. Dr. Eyler and her staff use functional and structural neuroimaging
techniques along with other measures to assess how aging may differently effect
individuals with Bipolar disorder as compared to healthy control subjects.
The goal of this study is to better understand the role of changes in mood and inflammatory function on cognitive aging in Bipolar disorder. Previous research has indicated that molecules important for the immune system, such as levels cytokines, can change with age and predict cognitive decline even in mentally healthy individuals. Additionally, cytokine levels appear to be abnormal in individuals with Bipolar Disorder. In this investigation, we hope to discover how fluctuations in these cytokine levels effect long-term cognitive decline in Bipolar individuals. Specifically, we would like to identify 1) relationships between cognition and inflammation in the short term while accounting for effects of mood variability, 2) baseline measures and levels of short-term variability in inflammatory markers that might predict long-term trajectories of cognitive change, and 3) relationships between inflammatory, cognitive, and mood variables in the long-term (i.e., mechanisms of change).
Dr. Eyler’s work is focused on understanding how individual levels of compassion, empathy, and other positive psychological traits (for example, resilience, optimism) relate to differences in brain function and well-being across the lifespan. To understand these differences, she has been using multiple methods, including methods from cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, biology, psychiatry, social psychology, and medical anthropology.
The primary focus of this study is to identify biological substrates of gender identity in the brain. Observations of individuals with Alternating Gender Identity (AGI) allows for a unique opportunity to better examine the biological foundations of mental sex. Measures such as use of functional magnetic resonance imaging and endocrinological measures will be employed to assess changes in resting state connectivity and hormonal fluctuations. Specific goals of this study include understanding how functional connectivity in the default mode network, which has been hypothesized to be critical in self-referential cognition, and is observable in resting state functional imaging, is affected by gender state.