Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is characterized by mood swings between depression and mania. It is a prevalent and devastating illness, but it does respond to treatment with drugs such as lithium, as well as a number of drugs that are also used to treat epilepsy: for example valproate (VPA), carbamazepine (CBZ), and lamotrigine (LTG). We are working on the mechanism of action of these drugs using neurons grown in culture.
Knowing the primary molecular targets of the drugs and the signalling pathways they regulate in neurons should lead to a better understanding of the molecular defects that underlie this illness, which is thought to be largely genetic in origin. We hope that knowing how the current drugs work to control mood swings in bipolar disorder will also help in the development of more specific drugs with fewer side-effects.