Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

I'm Dr. Roy Perlis, I'm a psychiatrist here at Massachusetts General Hospital and I wanted to say a word about some of the research efforts going on here in bipolar disorder. I'll talk about two different kinds of research.

One area of research involves clinical investigations in people with bipolar disorder to try to do a better job of treating the kinds of symptoms that bipolar patients often suffer from. So while there are a lot of studies that look at how do we treat depression and bipolar disorder or how do we treat mania, for many patients they spend a lot of time with these sort of in between symptoms -- so some degree of depression even though they're not in a full blown depressive episode, or even though they're not in a depression, they just feel like they can't think straight or they have a lot of cognitive symptoms.

And so we're doing clinical trials to investigate medications that might help to alleviate some of these depressive symptoms -- might help to alleviate some of these cognitive symptoms -- as well as studies of other things to try to improve side effect profiles because while bipolar medications work very well for many patients they also tend to have a lot of side effects. That's one area of investigation at the sort of bedside level.

At the bench level -- or in more basic science terms -- we're very involved in trying to find genes that contribute risk for bipolar disorder. So Mass General is coordinating multiple studies to look at the genes that contribute to this illness, and starting to make some headway in understanding are there factors that increase someone's risk for bipolar -- which would be critically important because it would help us learn what causes this illness.

And finally using those same kinds of studies we're very interested in understanding whether genes also influence how people respond to medications in bipolar disorder. So rather than some of the initial trial and error that's required when people are first diagnosed -- and we're trying to find what the right treatment is for them-- we're hoping that we can identify variations in genes that will help us predict who's going to do better on one medication or another.

There are a number of other important areas of research going on here, those are just two examples, but we're really very focused on trying to get a better handle on bipolar disorder -- both on the clinical level and on the basic science level. And I think there's a great deal to be hopeful about.

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