Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder: Sharing a Common Biology

schizophrenia and bipolarAccording to new findings published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder share a common biology.[1] For nearly a century, the two separate diagnoses have been used to differentiate between symptoms, outcomes, and response to medicines; however, a growing number of medical professionals are starting to question these tools for the classification, understanding, and treatment of major mental illness.1

Co-author of the studies and Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine, Godfrey Pearlson, said, “We have known for a long time that the clinical symptoms are shared substantially between the two conditions, but when you look at the biology, these illnesses also blur into each other. It is clear that they are not two nicely separated packages, but there is a substantial crossover between the two.”1

While the specific genes that play a role in either disorder have not been clearly identified, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder patients share similar abnormalities in measures such as eye movement and response to electroencephalogram tests.1

Researchers at Yale and the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn. are conducting a study known as BSNIP (Bipolar-Schizophrenia Network on Intermediate Phenotypes).1 They are looking into 20 potential biological disease factors in 3,000 participants, including those with schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder, along with their close relatives.1

The research, thus far, has revealed similar deficits in the brain among grey matter and white matter within schizophrenia and bipolar patients.1 The two disorders also share similar types of cognitive deficits.1 As there are no clear-cut biological distinctions separating the two disorders, similar brain abnormalities and cognitive dysfunction is shared to a lesser degree by relatives of patients.1 This represents disease susceptibility.1

It is hoped that this research, as it continues, will point to the common genetic causes of these disorders.1

[1] Pedersen, T. (2013). Blurred Lines Between Schizophrenia, Bipolar Biology. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 31, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/30/blurred-lines-between-schizophrenia-bipolar-biology/63919.html

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