Monday, June 04, 2007

Genes And Bipolar Disorder

U.S. scientists have discovered bipolar disorder -- also known as manic-depression -- might actually be polygenic (a disease caused by an interaction of genes in more than once place in the body).

The National Institute of Mental Health conducted the first genome-wide association study of bipolar disorder and discovered that not one specific gene appears to be necessary or sufficient for disease. Instead, several genes were shown to contribute to the risk of bipolar disorder.

Genetic research shows us more and more how mental illness is real and not a result of weak character, laziness or other ignorant based notions.

The study can be found at Molecular Psychiatry - which is an awesome resource. Many research articles are free to read and highlight the biological aspects that cause mental illness.

I wonder if I should get Tom Cruise a subscription?


Zandi, P. et. al. (2007) Genome-wide linkagescan of 98 bipolar pedigrees and analysis of clinical covariates. MolecularPsychiatry. Online publication 15 May 2007; doi:0.1038/


jumpinginpuddles said...

nah ya cant get tom cruise one cause then he'll wanna try the research and get all the crazy results an screw it up fa everyone else.
We sure hope this helps some a our mates out there who suffer so bad from this disorder an don deserve ta.

marie said...

Dr Deb-Very interesting and informational piece. I think Mr Cruise should should get a subscription and get off his soapbox.

Joel said...

(Leaving the well-deserved Tom Cruise bashing behind....)

I believe that as they get to know this disease better, they will discover a complex of similar disorders. Some get by on just lithium. Others need a cocktail.

Mr. Clark said...

Thanks for the post. I found it very informative.

Jamie said...

Dr. Deb - I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to thank you for such an amazing resource. I have a blog about my personal struggle with depression and a website dedicated to helping support others with depression and would love to reprint some of your articles on those sites. Could you contact me to talk? my email is jamieleggatt(at)

The web sites are and

Thanks so much!

Grumpy Old Man said...

The article itself costs 30 bucks.

Fascinating stuff. It makes sense that there's a spectrum of mood disorders AND I FEEL BRILLIANT AND SEXY AND I'M GETTING ON A PLANE FOR PARIS TONIGHT WITH MY KIDS' TUITION MONEY . . .

Anonymous said...

My ex husband has bi polar disorder. This is so interesting to me. Too bad he won't be interested in it. Thanks for sharing this.

Midwife with a Knife said...

I find the biological basis of behavior/brain functioning to be fascinating. Not only is this one step towards improving stigmatization and ultimately treatment of mental illness, it's just down right fascinating!

S'onnie said...

very interesting reading

alan said...

I think (hope) there will come a time in the not so distant future where they might be able to use information like this to turn off or on certain genes and find the magic to end so very many problems...


Dr. Deb said...

Dear JIP,
Yeah, you're right.

Dear Marie,
The genetic bases for mental illness cannot be denied any more!

Dear Joel,
Perhpas isolating certain genes will help to develop better medications. You are right, some do well with lithium, while others needs a cocktail of sorts. And then there are those who cannot find relief from symptoms. And you are much kinder than I regarding TC.

Dear Mr. Clark,
Well, thank you.

Dear Jamie,
Feel free to use whatever you like. I will come visit you now.

Dear GOM,
Yes, this particular article is costly, but I like the journal as it offers many free articles to read or download.

Dear Traci,
So sad that many resist.

Dear Midwife,
I'm with you on the fascination. This research will be helpful in so many ways.

Dear S'onnie,
I thought it was verrrry interesting.

Dear Alan,
Wouldn't that be great?!?! I know there are those who worry (and rightfully so) that technological advances may not only be used for good, but I like to think we can gain so much from it.


OHN said...

This just adds one more confirmation that I have always felt in my heart..that we are born the way we are. I firmly believe that everything that makes us tick is there upon birth and while some environmental factors may contribute to how we manifest our ways, we are what we are. How else can you explain raising 3 kids exactly the same yet they are all completely different, gay vs straight ( I don't think anyone would "choose" to be gay because sadly it is still a stigma and being straight must be easier still in society)...and on and on. I think it is only a matter of time before society catches up with psychiatry and finally accepts peoples differences.

Ian Lidster said...

I don't think it would work with our Tom, Deb. That would be because he doesn't believe in you and your colleagues. But seriously, I think the research is interesting and potentially vital in dealing with an illness that even we lay persons have seen manifest itself in people around us.
In Mr. Cruise's case, I think it would be worthy to find a genetic connection (and possible therapy) for extreme superficiality. Come to think of it, if such a thing were found, half of Hollywood would be forced to close shop.

Godwhacker said...

As Mr. Spock would say, fascinating! I love the field of genetics. Our understanding of the field is still in it's infancy. My supposition is that the gene map is much like a piece of music, with various resonances, harmonies, rhythms, and melodies possible. Even the term "polygenic" has it's parallel in musical language, polyphonic. I think all the elements are interrelated and that it is difficult to change one tone/gene without changing the nature of the whole.

Candace said...

... Tom Cruise subscription ... snerk.

Thanks for the great link, too, Deb.

Shannon A. Long said...

Ooohh! Thanks for bringing my attention to Molecular Psychiatry! Free articles are good articles! :)

Leigh said...

Thanks for pointing this article out. It's very interesting :>

wolfbaby said...

now tht would be helpful...

Personally i think someone should get him one every theree months.. just incase he loses em;P

Debaser said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Doc. I guess I was brought up "old school" or whatever, but I constantly find myself suppressing the thought that my depression and anxiety/panic disorder IS the result of weakness.

In reality, if I take an objective look at my family, it's very clear that these mental health problems run through it. I'm most familiar with my Mom's side, but my Dad definitely had some major problems when I was a little kid, prior to the divorce.

I think we're at the precipice of seeing some great things in medicine. There will always be the oddball stories about "children made to order", but the majority of the work is going to be positive.

Belizegial said...

Dr. Deb, thanks for the links.
BTW, can you get me a subscription instead? :)

Dreaming again said...

Ian ... you know what I find confusing ... Tom and his ilk, doesn't believe in Dr. Deb ..and yet, we have her words and her picture, and people have actually met her, laid eyes on her ..and she's consulted on television shows etc ... yet, he believes in alien life forms ..none of which we've met, seen pictures of ..nor have there...well, you get my drift. Unless, Men in Black is actually a documentary....hmmmmm

ok, fatigue is setting in.

On a more serious note ...
I find the genetics in all this quite facinating, there is bi polar on both my husband's side of the family, as well as my side .. schizophrenia ...and then my kids have OCD and Tourette's Syndrome. (TECHNICALLY, I've been diagnosed with it too, but I'm obsessively denying that I have it! ) Add to that my own issues with eating disorders etc ... and our mental health factors are quite interesting ... genetics have got to play a roll.

Wrapped up in all the mental health issues, there is quite a bit of stability in the instability that has managed to survive and thrive ... so ... environment simply doesn't explain it.

Id it is said...

One constantly hears this term but I'm afraid there isn't enough publicity and exposure given to it to make ordinary people aware of what it is and what it entails to suffer from it.
As always Deb, thanks for bringing it up.

puhpaul said...

Wow, molecular psychiatry. I guess I shouldn't be amazed by that, but I am. With all the research being with the Human Genome Project, it was just a matter of time before the research scientists started finding genetic links to so many different things. I'll be happy when this research can start to develop a gene therapy to help those afflicted with all of these disorders.


Raine said...

ok then-I got oh so lucky in getting just the right combo of genes.......why cant I get that lucky in the lottery.... :P

Lynn said...

It has long been known that actual genetic changes occur in response to certain drugs, stresses or traumas. I think it is more than a coincidence that the majority of people who suffer from 'mental disorders' suffered from abuse or trauma first, though many cannot admit or accept it. My brothers have addictions, anxiety disorders, impulse control problems and somatizations. If you ask them point blank if they have ever been abused, they will all say no. They are in denial. My sister and I saw it all and we call a spade a spade. My brothers and my mother are keeping the family secret. I think MANY, MANY people do this.

I think we're looking in the wrong places for answers. And I don't think society will ever admit it. Too many feelings would be hurt. Too many people would have fingers pointed in their faces. Too many people would have to give up the lie of the ideally embelished childhood that guards their denial and protects the parents or other perpetrators. I'm glad I have no more use for the family lie.

Cathy said...

Does this also mean that in the future there might be a cure?

CrackerLilo said...

I'm glad other people are smart enough to do that work for the rest of us!

Dreaming again said...

alrighty then

Dr. Deb said...

Dear OHN,
I love your thinking.

Dear Ian,

Dear GW,
I love the field of genetics too. I never took a course in it, but think I would've enjoyed the process of it all.

Dear Candace,
You made me smile.

Dear Shannon,
They offer free articles, though most are available for a fee. I love when journals give the reader a free sample to peruse.

Dear Leigh,
It helps to take the myth out of mental illness and bases it in biology.

Dear Wolfbaby,
That's a good thought.

Dear Debaser,
YOu hve to keep trying ot knock out the old way of thinking. Doing so is not helpful and actually lowers self esteem. Mental illness is a real medical thing, like heart disease, diabetes, etc. The more we assign diseases and disorders to biology and not laziness, the more we will rid the world of stigma.

Dear Belize,
I think the free stuff will have to do ;)

Dear Dreaming,
Environement does not explain it. You are right. Nature (biology, etc) and nuture ebb and flow to form a person and their strengths/weaknesses. That is why no two people are alike....even twins.

Dear Id,
I think there is still resistence to seeing mental illness as a medical illness. Perhaps we need to change the name of mental illness to something else. Like neurobiological illness.

Dear Paul,
I think it will be wonderful to have genetic research help find cures and treatments. There are some, however, who worry that genetic therapy could make the world too sterile a place. Some think if certain illnesses and diseases are eradicated, certain emotions and experiences will be gone too. I guess this topic is for another post someday.

Dear Raine,
Me too. I have the genetics for depression, among many other difficult things. But I also got genes and environmental experiences that offer me wonderful things. I guess take the good with the bad is what makes each of us unique.

Dear Lynn,
You raise an excellent point. Predisposition does not mean things will be a definite. Trauma, abuse, etc can set off those predispositions.

Dear Cathy,
Let's hope so!

Dear Cracker,
I so agree. These researchers and scientists and explorers of the mind are the real heroes!!

Dear Dreaming,
I delelted that anon message. Sheesh!


Runs With Scissors said...

Dr. Deb~

Thanks for the interesting link, and thanks for removing the diatribe by "anonymous", who clearly needs help. I wasn't aware of Molecular Psychiatry, but I'm not surprised. Thank goodness I have an institutional account with the Texas Medical Center Library and can access it for free.

As usual, an insightful posting!


jane said...

Very interesting. This made me wonder if I'd want to be "cured" by some operation, if that became possible. I'm not sure I'd be who I am if I did. At the same time, I'd like to see how it felt to be "normal." But if I didn't like it, there would be no going back.
It sounds as though they are getting that choice to possibly be a reality someday.

DrGwenn said...

Fantastic post. I've seen so many very small children with likely bipolar disorder. I find it very reassuring to learn that more research is evolving to understand this on a minute level. I'd love to see this diagnosable in early childhood. I'm tired of the NOS label for kids who clearly have mood swings that are what they are.

The more we can prove there is a true medical science to this disorder, the more we can erase the stigma.

Dream Writer said...

I definetely believe that genes of any kind is related...and I think we are all truly born with just takes time to manifest into full-blown bipolar.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear RWS,
Sometimes I have to block the anonymous comment link. Makes me sad, but no spam or abuse here, thank you.

Dear Jane,
Things like this will raise some very ethical questions. I'm with you on wondering.

Dear Dr. Gwenn,
The more we know, the more we know.

Dear Dream Writer,
Trauma, stress, abuse, etc can set what is predisposed into action. The more we learn about genetics, the more we can find better treatments and perhaps cures!
PS: I linked you to my blog.


Dream Writer said...

Thanks! I did the same for you on my blog :)

I read your Resume and saw that you are from NEW YORK!!!

I lived on Long Island most of my life and moved to a different state.

I miss New York so much...I went to the City all the time. :)

Dr. Deb said...

What a small world, right?!?!?!


Happy2b said...

Hi, I agree that this is important knowledge that needs to be grasped so what we learn will waterfall into many many other disorders that are possibly the "switch" that exasterbates the severeness of bp or any other disorder. I believe that OCD or severe anxiety can be key in manifesting BP disorder, I watched it happen with my daughter...however I did recognize her manic and depressive states as early as 8 or 9. Whats also interesting is she pointed out to me she believes she experiences synesthesia as well.

And I do know that genes have something to do with this too as it has reared its head in my family as well as my husbands' in different forms. This is my first time blog, thanks for being here!

Essie said...

I just wanted to comment on a part of this blog:

"Genetic research shows us more and more how mental illness is real and not a result of weak character, laziness or other ignorant based notions. "

This truly is a freeing statement for those who struggle silently within their own head because they think they are "screwed up" because of what they have done or lack of having done. For the longest time I thought that the different aspects of my personalities were because I was undisciplined in my thought life--which to some extent they are--however, not only do genes play a part, but experiences.