Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Post for Left-Handed BIPS (Part 2)

In Goggling "left-hand bipolar," I was surprised to read that other BIPS (bipolar people) have wondered if there's a connection. In forums, most people just wrote things like, "I'm left-handed and have read there is more mental illness among left-handed people. Are you left-handed?" Others replied and affirmed they either were left-handed or weren't. So, there was no real value for me.

However, I did find a very interesting article, Left Hand, Left Brain: The Plot Thickens, written by Carolyn Asbury in 2005. She writes:
Knowing that each side (hemisphere) of the brain controls movements of the opposite side of the body, some scientists have looked to handedness to yield clues to how the hemispheres function. Adding greatly to the interest are reports that three times as many left-handed people have schizophrenia, bipolar disease, or autism as would be expected from the prevalence of left-handedness in the population at large. A disproportionately high prevalence of left-handedness has been found, as well, in people with dyslexia and stuttering, in people with math and music prowess, and among people in intellectually demanding professions. But, not surprisingly, some of the proposed linkages have been challenged by other studies that use different designs, so scientists are left without definitive answers.
According to Asbury, much of the research on hemisphere dominance, handedness, and ability and disability was done by two Harvard researchers Norman Geschwind, M.D. and Albert Galaburda, M.D. They found that non-right-handedness (I'm assuming they mean left-handed people and those who are ambidextrous) was more common in architects and in children who were mathematically gifted. Left-handed males had more incidence of autism and learning disabilities. Autoimmune diseases and juvenile diabetes was more prevalent in left-handers. Their conclusion was that "left-handedness is a marker of the brain's normal asymmetry of the hemisphere."
So, how does all this relate to being a left-handed BIP?
I spent a long time reading the rest of Asbury's article and I couldn't figure it out. She writes paragraph after paragraph about the research done by geneticist Amar Klar, Ph.D. at the National Cancer Institute. But I could neither synthesize the information nor understand what it truly meant. So, I Goggled Klar and found the following abstract from a lecture, Genetics on Human Handedness, Schizophrenia, and Bipolar Traits.

"The causes of human hand-use preference, and the psychiatric diseases of schizophrenia and bipolar remain unknown. Our population studies have suggested that a single gene, Rght1, makes one a right-hander and those with both copies of the nonfunctional r (for random) allele are a fifty-fifty mixture of left/ambidextrous and right-handers. This same genetic mechanism also controls the development of clockwise vs. counterclockwise direction of rotation of scalp hair whorl on the top of our heads.

"Handedness genetics must have evolved in humans so that most right-handers develop language processing in the left brain hemisphere and left-handers are fifty-fifty in developing language in either hemisphere. Also it is known that psychosis patients are three times more likely to be lefties as compared with the general public, thus there is weak connection between handedness and schizophrenia and bipolar diseases. Our recent work has suggested that psychosis results strictly from genetics, possibly due to anomalies of the asymmetric development of brain hemispheres."
What does this mean? For me, it means absolutely nothing.
While research like this is interesting, I imagine you can take any premise, research it, and come to some conclusion. While some people believe that the future of "finding a cure" for bipolar disorder will result from brain research, I'm not sure it will. And even if it does, it won't happen for years, and will have no affect for me because I'll be long gone.

If I were the Bipolar Wellness Czar, I would focus my resources on providing people with the help they need on a daily basis. I would care more about insurance parity than genetic research. I would provide more funding for researchers who are interested in helping people survive--and flourish--on a daily basis than for those whose research will possibly help others who have yet to be born.

Actually, I'd probably provide more funding for BIPs themselves rather than for researchers. I'd support bipolar bloggers so they could help others and make a living do so.

I'd enable every BIP the ability to take free personality testing to determine whether introversion is a common trait, and whether they need more help dealing with extroverts than with their gene pool. I'd provide people with the counseling they need at an affordable cost, and I'd also provide free exercise programs, nutritional counseling, and so much more. But, that's the subject of another post!

P.S. Mariposa continued yesterday's dialogue in her blog, Mariposa's Tales. You might want to check it out!


concerned heart said...

Hi. There is also a connection with older paternal age and being left-handed. Best wishes.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Concerned Heart,
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for sharing this info! Maybe that's why my son is left-handed!


Wendy Love said...

I agree with your concluding remarks. That's what I would do too. I do know this. I am an artist. As soon as I pick up my paintbrush, my brain goes to another place. I guess occupational therapists have known that all along. Switching sides of the brain is its own therapy, giving relief, at least for awhile.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
Thanks for your comment. We can both be so grateful we have a way to relieve the pain, and an outlet for expressing ourselves.


Mariposa said...

I still say left handed people are mostly artist...and artist are more emotional...imaginative...sensitive...so there, but it has nothing to do with mental illness/disorder. :)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
I'll agree with you because it feels good to believe that! :)