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Clin Chim Acta. 2015 Sep 20;449:49-59. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2015.02.029. Epub 2015 Feb 20.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: The road from similarities and clinical heterogeneity to neurobiological types.

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Laboratory of Clinical and Behavioural Neurology, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, 00179 Rome, Italy; Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic and Orthopaedic Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy.
Laboratory of Clinical and Behavioural Neurology, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, 00179 Rome, Italy; NESMOS Department, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, University "Sapienza" of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Laboratory of Clinical and Behavioural Neurology, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, 00179 Rome, Italy; Beth K. and Stuart C. Yudofsky Division of Neuropsychiatry, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA. Electronic address:


Although diagnosis is a central issue in medical care, in psychiatry its value is still controversial. The function of diagnosis is to indicate treatments and to help clinicians take better care of patients. The fundamental role of diagnosis is to predict outcome and prognosis. To date serious concern persists regarding the clinical utility and predictive validity of the diagnosis system in psychiatry, which is at the most syndromal. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which nosologists consider two distinct disorders, are the most discussed psychiatric illnesses. Recent findings in different fields of psychiatric research, such as neuroimaging, neuropathology, neuroimmunology, neuropsychology and genetics, have led to other conceptualizations. Individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder vary greatly with regard to symptoms, illness course, treatment response, cognitive and functional impairment and biological correlates. In fact, it is possible to find heterogeneous correlates even within the same syndrome, i.e., from one stage of the disorder to another. Thus, it is possible to identify different subsyndromes, which share some clinical and neurobiological characteristics. The main goal of modern psychiatry is to ovethrow these barriers and to obtain a better understanding of the biological profiles underlying heterogeneous clinical features and thus reduce the variance and lead to a homogeneous definition. The translational research model, which connects the basic neuroscience research field with clinical experience in psychiatry, aims to investigate different neurobiological features of syndromes and of the shared neurobiological features between two syndromes. In fact, this approach should help us to better understand the neurobiological pathways underlying clinical entities, and even to distinguish different, more homogeneous, diagnostic subtypes.


Biomarker; Bipolar disorder; Diagnosis; Diagnostic subtypes; Schizophrenia

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