Depression and bipolar disorder can both cause people to go through periods of extreme sadness and despair, and even mental health experts may find it difficult to distinguish between the two disorders. But new research suggests these conditions may have very different patterns of brain activity.

In a new study, researchers scanned the brains of people with clinical depression and other people with bipolar disorder, and measured these individuals’ reactions to emotional photographs. The researchers found differences in the amount of activity in brain areas involved in regulating emotion in bipolar patients, compared with patients who had “unipolar” depression (a term used to distinguish the condition from bipolar disorder).

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