Biological aspects and candidate biomarkers for rapid-cycling in bipolar disorder: A systematic review

Massimiliano Buoli, Marta Serati, A. Carlo Altamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder represents a frequent severe subtype of illness which has been associated with poor response to pharmacological treatment. Aim of the present article is to provide an updated review of biological markers associated with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. A research in the main database sources has been conducted to identify relevant papers about the topic. Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder patients seem to have a more frequent family history for bipolar spectrum disorders (d range: 0.44-0.74) as well as an increased susceptibility to DNA damage or mRNA hypo-transcription (d range: 0.78-1.67) than non rapid-cycling ones. A susceptibility to hypothyroidism, which is exacerbated by treatment with lithium, is possible in rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, but further studies are needed to draw definitive conclusions. Rapid-cycling bipolar patients might have more insuline resistance as well as more severe brain changes in frontal areas (d range: 0.82-0.94) than non rapid-cycling ones. Many questions are still open about this topic. The first is whether the rapid-cycling is inheritable or is more generally the manifestation of a severe form of bipolar disorder. The second is whether some endocrine dysfunctions (diabetes and hypothyroidism) predispose to rapid-cycling or rapid-cycling is the consequence of drug treatment or medical comorbidities (e.g. obesity).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-575
JournalPsychiatry Research
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Biomarkers
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Immunology
  • Rapid-cycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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