The outpatient bipolar clinic at The University of Texas Southwestern University now boasts two funded studies of acupuncture, according to Brigham Bowles, MA, LAc, lead acupuncturist.


A study already underway with a grant from the Stanley Foundation, a private foundation supporting bipolar research, looks at acupuncture care for the mania or hypomania phase of bipolar (formerly called manic-depressive) disorder. That trial involves 30 subjects. The hypothesis is that with acupuncture treatment, patients will experience a decrease in symptoms and be less likely to progress from hypomania to mania. Bowles explains that hypomania refers to a clearly definable stage less severe than full-blown mania.


A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant will fund a study of acupuncture treatment of depression in bipolar patients. This trial will also involve 30 subjects and entail a modified version of a study conducted at the University of Arizona by John Allen, PhD and Rosa Schnyer, LAc treating uni-polar depression (see Guidepoints, November, 1999). Allen and Schnyer will provide training to the Southwestern team this summer.

Bowles believes that the primary reason NIH approved the study is because it followed in the footsteps of the Allen & Schnyer study. One of the differences is that the model will not include a double blind design due to budgetary limitations. Bowles hopes that positive outcomes in this study will pave the way for further research.

Ultimately, we "hope to move acceptance of acupuncture beyond the treatment of musculo-skeletal pain". Bowles notes gratitude for the Allen & Schnyer depression study and the body of research about acupuncture for addiction treatment. "We are grateful to be able to cite them in our studies also," he adds.

Bowles clarifies that both studies are add-on in nature. For ethical reasons, all subjects will continue on their Western medication in addition to the acupuncture intervention.

Bowles and clinic head Patricia Suppes, MD, PhD, agreed to collaborate for bipolar research three years ago. Bowles says he has learned much about the grant application process and the complexities of psychiatric research.

Contact: Patricia Suppes, MD, PhD, director, University of Texas Southwestern, department of psychiatry, bipolar disorders clinic. (214) 648-7474.

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