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Controversial Research

Posted on August 14, 2009

David A. Axelson (bio) sees research as the road to mutual understanding in controversial fields.


In some ways when there's not a lot of knowledge and there's a lot of controversy, that's not a bad area to get involved in research-wise because then there's interest to putting resources towards trying to figure that out and try to settle the controversy, at least as best you can.

So in some ways, although there is a lot of some political battles and back and forth about the controversy of the diagnosis, [bipolar disorder in children] was a fruitful area to actually try to concentrate in because it was a major problem that we didn't have good answers and a lot of people were arguing without a whole lot of strong data to support their arguments.

And so that was in some ways a motivator to really try to do quality research in the area and come from a perspective that wasn't sort of feeling like you had to prove one thing or the other, just sort of going with a sense of inquiry and see what we have, if we look at these kids and follow them over time.

And so that was actually, in some ways, a good thing, although there has been some backlash about the diagnosis. Is it being over diagnosed? Are too many kids being called this, getting exposed to too many medicines? Which, I think, some of that backlash is understandable and perhaps there are some positive aspects to it that we don't want to sort of go into too much diagnosis, label too many kids something before we really know what's going on.

But that's also another reason to do more research in the area. What happens to these kids that presents with this sort of cluster of symptomatology? Do they truly progress to what we call bipolar disorder in adults or do they have something else that would be better to treat with different medications and different psychosocial treatments?

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2009 Career Development Institute for Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.


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