After 12 Years of Searching, Researchers Conclude on The Cause of Bipolar Disorder

For more than a decade, a team of researchers from the University of Michigan has been analyzing the cause of Bipolar Disorder: fortunately, they have just been able to identify seven classes of phenotype that can help doctors to diagnose and track the progression bipolar disorder in patients.

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According to the team report which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology: every patient of bipolar disorder has experiences which includes features that fall into seven characteristics that can easily be observed. And that, each patient’s experience varies from that of others.

The team of researchers from U-M’s Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program, collected and analyzed tens of thousands of data over years, including the medical histories, motivations, diets, genetics, emotions, sleep and thought patterns of research volunteers.

More than 730 of the research volunteers were recorded to have bipolar disorder, while 277 didn’t.

The researchers’ framework could be useful to those studying the condition, clinical teams treating it, and patients experiencing it.

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There are many routes to this disease, and many routes through it, says Melvin McInnis, M.D., lead author of the new paper and head of the program based at the U-M Depression Center.

We have found that there are many biological mechanisms which drive the disease, and many interactive external influences on it. All of these elements combine to affect the disease as patients experience it.

The seven phenoclasses, as the U-M team has dubbed them, include standard measures doctors already use to diagnose and track the progress of bipolar disorder.

Below are some of the key findings made in the Prechter cohort by the U-M team:

  • Participants with bipolar disorder who have a strong neurotic tendency in their personalities are more likely to have severe illness, especially among men.
  • Migraine headaches are three and a half times more common among people with bipolar disorder than those without.
  • Participants with bipolar show poor cognitive abilities than those without it. The abilities include memory, executive functioning and motor skills.
  • Anxiety disorders, alcohol problems and eating disorders are more prevalent among those with bipolar.
  • Poor sleep appears to play a key role among female participants with the condition. Linking to severity of depression and mania.
  • Nerve cells called neurons derived from stem cells that were grown from skin samples taken from participants, have proven useful in studying cellular aspects of bipolar disorder.

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Interestingly, the researchers couldn’t link a single gene to why bipolar disorder run in families.

If there was a gene with a strong effect like what we see in breast cancer, for instance, we would have found it,” says McInnis, who is the Woodworth Professor of Bipolar Disorder and Depression in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.

We hope this new framework will provide a new approach to understand this disorder, and other complex diseases, by developing models that can guide a management strategy for clinicians and patients, and give researchers consistent variables to measure and assess.”

In conclusion, Mclnnis professes understanding Bipolar disorder will be of advantage in studying other illnesses, because it covers the breadths of human mood, emotion and behavior like no other condition.

This article is based on information provided by the University of Michigan, and as published by

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