Understanding the neurobiology of bipolar depression

  • Jun-Feng Wang
  • L. Trevor Young
Part of the Milestones in Drug Therapy book series (MDT)


Many studies have shown decreased brain volume and cell number in prefrontal and limbic regions of bipolar disorder subjects, suggesting presence of disturbed neuronal circuitry and impaired neuroplasticity in these regions. The serotonin system plays an important role in depression and is a target of antidepressants. Studies have shown that the major serotonin metabolite 5-HIAA and serotonin transporter activity are decreased in cerebrospinal fluid, brain or platelets of subjects with bipolar depression, indicating that an abnormal serotonin system also contributes significantly to this disease. Mitochondria regulate synthesis, release and uptake of neurotransmitters via energy production. Evidence has shown that glucose metabolic rate and cerebral blood flow are decreased in bipolar depression. Studies also suggest defects in mitochondrial electron transport chain and oxidative damage in bipolar disorder. These studies together indicate that bipolar depression may be associated with an abnormal serotonin system resulting from mitochondrial dysfunction-induced impaired neuroplasticity in neuronal circuitry related to mood regulation.


Bipolar Disorder Brain Derive Neurotrophic Factor Serotonin Transporter Biol Psychiatry Bipolar Depression 


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© Birkhäuser Verlag/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun-Feng Wang
    • 1
  • L. Trevor Young
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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