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The Australasian Society for Bipolar Disorders (ASBD) Conference 2007

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The 2nd Australasian Society for Bipolar Disorders (ASBD) conference was recently held in Sydney. The Australasian Society for Bipolar Disorders is an organization started in 2004 that works to foster research and provide ongoing training and education about Bipolar Affective Disorder (BPAD). Over the two days of the conference, those attending where presented with a wide range of topics about BPAD. The focus was on the latest research findings. Numerous guest speakers and a variety of international experts presented their new research, skills and ideas. The conference was open to psychiatrics, psychologists, researchers, socials workers, trainees and students.

The Australian Society for Bipolar Disorder conference was held from the 20th to 22nd of September at the Sydney Convention Center. The conference consisted of lectures, presentations, workshops and poster sessions.

A highlight was a full day workshop dealing with family-focused treatment for bipolar disorders given by Professor David Miklowitz form the University of Colorado. Other esteemed guests included Professor Mauricio Tohen and Professor Lakshmi Yatham among many others. There where four keynote presentations, outlined below.

Neurobiology of bipolar disorder: approaches to solving the mystery

Presented by Prof Lakshmi Yatham, this presentation dealt with new research about the genetics of BPAD. Although research is ongoing the exact genes that lead to BPAD are still unknown. It seems that these genes are turned on at some time during adolescence and this triggers the symptoms of BPAD. However, it is still unclear exactly what causes these genes to become turned on in some individuals.

Clinical and neurobiological implications of delayed and inconsistent treatment of bipolar disorder

Presented by Robert Post, this presentation dealt with new research about the need for early diagnosis and treatment of BPAD. BPAD often starts early in life but is not diagnosed or treated for years and this results in poor long term outcomes for the patient.

Each untreated episode of depression or mania is associated with changes in the chemicals in the brain. This, in the long term, has serious effects on the brain and increases the risks of brain cell death. The result is a decline in mental functioning and a worsening of symptoms. Effective treatment, started as early as possible, is therefore essential to slow any changes in the brain and this will result in a better long term result for the patient.

Family-focused treatment for bipolar disorder in adults and youth

Presented by David Miklowitz, this presentation dealt with the importance of family support to a patient with BPAD. A person whose family environment is high in criticism, hostility or emotional tension is far more likely to have many episodes of mania or depression with more severe symptoms than an individual who has a supportive family. The therapy that was presented consists of 21 sessions over 9 months and focuses on education about BPAD, conflict resolution skills and communication skills.

Predictors of syndromal and functional recovery in patients with a first-episode of mania

Presented by Mauricio Tohen, this presentation dealt with new research about the ability to predict how quickly patients will recovery from their first episode of mania. The study included 173 patients.

Features associated with a quick recovery include being married, having a shorter hospital stay and being female. The features associated with longer recovery or a worsening of symptoms include psychotic symptoms, a mixed episode, other mental illness being present and being aged over 30.


There were numerous other interesting presentations that covered a wide variety of topics. The other topics covered during the conference included suggested new treatments for BPAD, psychological treatments for BPAD, issues surrounding the diagnosis of BPAD, early onset BPAD, suicide in BPAD and care giver issues.

There were also many poster presentations. One interesting presentation was ‘Suicide and self harm: mixed mood or personality in bipolar disorder’ by Sue Luty. This research was conducted in Christchurch, New Zealand, and investigated whether suicide in mixed states was due to the BPAD or a personality disorder (which is often also present in a patient with BPAD).The study found that while about 60% of patients with BPAD had tried to commit suicide, only 20% of these had a borderline personality disorder. The study concluded that BPAD alone is a high risk for suicide.

Another interesting presentation was ‘Paediatric bipolar disorder – cross cultural comparisons’ by Rajeev Jairam, Gin Malhi and Shoba Srinath. This study looked at BPAD in teenagers, and any differences between teenagers with BPAD in Australia and India. The study had 12 patients in the Australian group and 25 in the Indian group. The differences between groups included that the Indian group was on average 3 years younger, had more males and had fewer substance abuse issues. However, the two groups of patients had very similar symptoms, functioning and short term outcomes.

There were many other interesting presentations that will doubtless have an impact practically in the diagnosis and treatment of BPAD. The keynote presentations will effect treatment of BPAD patients in a number of ways. The importance of family therapy has again been highlighted as has the need for early diagnosis and treatment of BPAD. New advances in genetic theory were also presented. Of the other presentations, new areas have been explored about BPAD across different cultural groups, the use of MRI brain imaging in BPAD diagnosis and the symptoms of BPAD in pregnancy and childbirth. Overall this was a very successful and informative conference that dealt with a wide range of important issues regarding BPAD.

For further information and highlights of the 2007 conference please refer to the following website:

(Author: Simon Parys : October 2007)

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Posted On: 9 October, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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