The phenotypes of bipolar disorder: relevance for genetic investigations
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The search for susceptibility genes for bipolar disorder (BD) depends on appropriate definitions of the phenotype. In this paper, we review data on diagnosis and clinical features of BD that could be used in genetic studies to better characterize patients or to define homogeneous subgroups. Clinical symptoms, long-term course, comorbid conditions, and response to prophylactic treatment may define groups associated with more or less specific loci. One such group is characterized by symptoms of psychosis and linkage to 13q and 22q. A second group includes mainly bipolar II patients with comorbid panic disorder, rapid mood switching, and evidence of chromosome 18 linkage. A third group comprises typical BD with an episodic course and favourable response to lithium prophylaxis. Reproducibility of cognitive deficits across studies raises the possibility of using cognitive profiles as endophenotypes of BD, with deficits in verbal explicit memory and executive function commonly reported. Brain imaging provides a more ambiguous data set consistent with heterogeneity of the illness.
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