The Biologic Basis of Bipolar Disorder

Five mini-chapters on the brain chemistry of mania and depression
(updated 12/2014)

At this point, treatment of bipolar disorder is roughly equivalent to when diabetes was treated without insulin. We do not know the fundamental cause and cannot therefore target our treatments accordingly.

However, our understanding is growing very quickly.  I used to hope that a Nobel prize would be awarded someday to someone who made the key discovery.  But it now appears that the tapestry of manic symptoms is extremely complex.  Many threads have been identified, and they are just beginning to come together.  Even if no single researcher wins a Nobel, small breakthroughs seem to be coming more and more rapidly. This is a very exciting time in the history of bipolar understanding.

  • Chapter 1: the genetic basis of bipolar disorder
  • Chapter 2: Brain differences in bipolar disorder
  • Chapter 3: The central role of the biological clock
  • Chapter 4: The biologic basis of depression
  • Chapter 5: There must be some evolutionary advantage?

Note that the biologic basis of depression is described in a separate section on this website.