Learn More About Bipolar Disorder Research Studies

What Are Bipolar Disorder Research Studies?

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a disorder that causes sudden and unusual shifts in mood, activity levels, energy, and concentration. It can significantly impact how a person carries out their day-to-day tasks.

While it is typically diagnosed during early adulthood or late adolescence, symptoms can also appear in children. Once diagnosed, the disorder can be managed through a consistent treatment plan. Bipolar disorder research studies aim to understand the underlying pathophysiology of this category of disorders.

They also aim to evaluate the safety and efficacy of existing treatments for the disorder. Various techniques are used to collect data about how it affects individuals and their lifestyles, such as interviews, focus group discussions, and much more.

Researchers explore various elements of the disorder to understand it better. From the causes and diagnosis to the treatment, recovery, and care, each area is carefully studied to determine how the prognosis and lifestyle of patients can be improved.

Researcher-clinicians are the most important intermediaries between research and practice and can integrate their practical experience into research and their research experience into practice.

Bipolar Disorder Research Studies

Why Is Bipolar Disorder Being Studied Through Research Studies?

Bipolar disorder and related issues are majorly under-addressed despite being prevalent public health problems. Currently, there are no treatments specifically developed for it. Instead, medications are prescribed based on the signs and symptoms.

All in all, the progress in discovering new medicines and treatments is slow. Only 20 studies of 6 treatments for bipolar depression have been conducted in the last two decades, and only two out of these studies compare alternative active treatments.

While treatment guidelines are available, there isn't adequate evidence base. This means that opposing views on medication choice cannot be satisfactorily resolved.

Additionally, bipolar disorder leads to a reduced quality of life for most patients and also their caregivers. Intervening with quality treatment approaches is the best way to overcome these consequences. However, diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder is still a challenge, mainly because of the complex course and the heterogeneity of the disorder.

In contemporary health care for mental health issues, care is usually provided according to the paradigm of evidence-based medicine. Evidence-based medicine is about practicing healthcare based on all the available research evidence.

Hence, randomized controlled trials are of supreme importance in acquiring adequate evidence, and they're also considered the golden standard of research.

Through research findings, many treatment guidelines are prepared, and these guidelines support clinical decision-making based on research evidence. It's safe to conclude that research is by far the only tool that has prompted the masses to understand the disorder well. Again, there's still a gap between research and practice because evidence cannot always be translated into clinical practice.

The best way to bridge this gap between research and practice is to include patients in the former as the end users. This way, the clinical relevance of research is improved, and patients' experiences are also taken into account.

What Are the Types of Treatments Available for Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is typically treated by medications and psychological counseling. Additional approaches to control or manage it can also include education and support groups.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment


The types and doses of medications usually depend on an individual's symptoms. However, they mainly include the following:

Antipsychotics: These drugs come into play if mania or depression symptoms persist despite being addressed through other medications. They usually include but are not limited to aripiprazole (Abilify) olanzapine (Zyprexa), ziprasidone (Geodon), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda) or asenapine (Saphris).

Mood stabilizers: Mood stabilizing medication helps control manic episodes. This type of medication mainly includes valproic acid (Depakene), lithium (Lithobid), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, others), divalproex sodium (Depakote), and lamotrigine (Lamictal).

Anti-anxiety medications: Anti-anxiety medication isn't a long-term solution, but it may help by improving the patient's sleep.

Antidepressants. Antidepressants can be added by your healthcare professional if you're struggling to manage depression. However, in most cases, a mood stabilizer is prescribed.


Psychotherapy is one of the most sought-after treatments for bipolar and related disorders. Within psychotherapy, there are a number of different approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, psycho-education, and family-focused therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is focused on identifying negative, unhealthy beliefs and replacing them with positive and healthy ones. It also helps individuals learn effective strategies for stress management.

On the other hand, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy helps individuals stabilize their daily rhythms, such as walking, sleeping, etc. By providing people with a consistent routine, the approach enforces better mood management.

While psycho-education is about understanding your symptoms, family-focused therapy allows individuals to seek family support. This way, they're able to recognize warning signs and manage their mood swings.

Additional Treatment Options

Additional treatments can also be added to the treatment plan based on an individual's needs. For instance, electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is used to change brain chemistry to reverse symptoms. However, it's only used if medications and psychotherapy haven't been effective.

What Are Some Recent Breakthrough Research Studies on Bipolar Disorder?

2020: Altered Potassium Levels In Neurons Can Cause Mood Swings in BD

It is common knowledge that people with BD undergo many dramatic shifts in mood. There are periods of both mania and depression involved. Most people struggle to find effective treatment options, while only some benefit from drugs like lithium. Through this research, researchers were able to reveal new findings about how some neurons in BD patients swing between being under or over-excited.

Researchers used a bunch of computational and experimental techniques to determine how variations in sodium and potassium currents in the brain cells of BD patients can help explain why some patients don't respond to lithium while others do. Researchers hoped that this finding would bring them closer to developing new techniques to treat the disorder.

2020: Therapy Along With Medication Is More Effective Than Medication Alone

In this review of 39 randomized clinical trials, it was found that medication combined with psychoeducational therapy is more effective for people with BD than just medication. Researchers started by analyzing studies that involved adult and adolescent patients getting medication for BD. These patients were randomly assigned to an active group, individual, or family therapy.

The study's lead author, David Miklowitz, confirmed that the study followed patients for over a year and measured their recurrence rates for BD symptoms. The findings concluded that psycho-education with illness management skills effectively reduced recurrences of depressive and mania symptoms. Furthermore, it also concluded that interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy were better at stabilizing symptoms of depression than any other forms of treatment. All in all, researchers believed that these findings pointed to the importance of having a good support system.

2021: Risk Gene For Bipolar Disorder

This study by Harvard Medical School discovered the first definitive risk gene for bipolar disorder. Researchers compared the exomes or the coding portions of genes of around 14,000 people with the disorder to 14,000 healthy individuals. They concluded that those with bipolar disorder had certain gene variants, some of which were related to schizophrenia.

The researchers also incorporated the results of another study by merging the exome sequences of 24,000 people with schizophrenia with the 14,000 people with BD and then comparing them to 14,000 healthy controls. It was through this research that a rare protein-disrupting mutation was discovered that elevates one's risk for bipolar disorder.

2022: Evidence of Brain Changes In Those At Risk of Bipolar Disorder

In this brain imaging study, young people were found to have a high risk of developing BD after weak connections were found between certain areas of the brain. Until now, the only thing that was known about the disorder was that there was a lack of communication between brain networks involved in thinking and emotional processing.

Through this study, researchers showed evidence of how these networks diminish over time in adolescents, making them more susceptible to developing bipolar disorder. The finding can have significant implications for future interventions.

Who Are Some Of The Key Opinion Leaders / Researchers / Institutions Conducting Bipolar Disorder Research Studies?

John Hopkins Medicine, Mood Disorders Center

John Hopkins Mood Disorder Center is dedicated to identifying causes of various mood disorders through research in the areas of genetics and environmental factors such as stress. Using its extensive laboratory setup, the center hopes to apply its research to existing as well as upcoming treatments. Many potential treatments and medications are being studied by researchers in the department for their effectiveness in affected patients. The unit also studies imaging and genetic markers in certain treatments with the aim of providing care to patients through personalized medicine.

The University of Edinburgh

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh look into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of bipolar and related disorders. They use various approaches and datasets to reach conclusions about effective treatments in patients with the disorder. However, researchers here are primarily acknowledged for working closely with clinicians, families, and patient groups.

The Edinburgh Neuroscience department aims to look into both environmental and genetic risk factors for BD while contributing to pharmacogenomic studies of treatments such as lithium therapy. Furthermore, they also study long-term clinical outcomes for patients. Currently, researchers are venturing into the areas of sleep/circadian disruption and mitochondrial dysfunction to understand bipolar disorder better. The two areas are not only important in terms of causing the disorder, but they can also lead to the development of novel treatment approaches.

The University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine

Within the Psychiatry Department of the university is the Division of Bipolar Disorders, which facilitates Bipolar Disorder research. With a number of researchers and a multidisciplinary group of physicians, the department aims to improve the care provided to adults, adolescents, and children.

The research here is majorly supported by funding from corporate, non-profit, and governmental sources. So far, the College of Medicine has received various grants from the Stanley Research Foundation, NARSAD, the Klingenstein Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Depression and Bipolar Disorder Alternative Treatment Foundation.