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Psychiatry Investig. 2013 Sep;10(3):225-32. doi: 10.4306/pi.2013.10.3.225. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Circadian rhythm hypotheses of mixed features, antidepressant treatment resistance, and manic switching in bipolar disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Numerous hypotheses have been put forth over the years to explain the development of bipolar disorder. Of these, circadian rhythm hypotheses have gained much importance of late. While the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivation hypothesis and the monoamine hypothesis somewhat explain the pathogenic mechanism of depression, they do not provide an explanation for the development of mania/hypomania. Interestingly, all patients with bipolar disorder display significant disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycles throughout their mood cycles. Indeed, mice carrying the Clock gene mutation exhibit an overall behavioral profile that is similar to human mania, including hyperactivity, decreased sleep, lowered depression-like behavior, and lower anxiety. It was recently reported that monoamine signaling is in fact regulated by the circadian system. Thus, circadian rhythm instability, imposed on the dysregulation of HPA axis and monoamine system, may in turn increase individual susceptibility for switching from depression to mania/hypomania. In addition to addressing the pathophysiologic mechanism underlying the manic switch, circadian rhythm hypotheses can explain other bipolar disorder-related phenomena such as treatment resistant depression and mixed features.


Bipolar disorder; Circadian dysregulation

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