Genetic contributions to bipolar disorder: Current status and future directions

Kevin S. O'Connell, Brandon J. Coombes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Bipolar disorder (BD) is a highly heritable mental disorder and is estimated to affect about 50 million people worldwide. Our understanding of the genetic etiology of BD has greatly increased in recent years with advances in technology and methodology as well as the adoption of international consortiums and large population-based biobanks. It is clear that BD is also highly heterogeneous and polygenic and shows substantial genetic overlap with other psychiatric disorders. Genetic studies of BD suggest that the number of associated loci is expected to substantially increase in larger future studies and with it, improved genetic prediction of the disorder. Still, a number of challenges remain to fully characterize the genetic architecture of BD. First among these is the need to incorporate ancestrally-diverse samples to move research away from a Eurocentric bias that has the potential to exacerbate health disparities already seen in BD. Furthermore, incorporation of population biobanks, registry data, and electronic health records will be required to increase the sample size necessary for continued genetic discovery, while increased deep phenotyping is necessary to elucidate subtypes within BD. Lastly, the role of rare variation in BD remains to be determined. Meeting these challenges will enable improved identification of causal variants for the disorder and also allow for equitable future clinical applications of both genetic risk prediction and therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2156-2167
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number13
StatePublished - Oct 21 2021


  • Mood disorder
  • affective disorder
  • psychiatric genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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