National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
(800) 950-NAMI;

Bipolar Disorder

February 29, 2008

An article from  takes a close look at a new study that blood tests might be used to diagnose mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder.

In a study of 29 patients with bipolar disorder, researchers measured gene activity, while also assessing high or low moods. Using this as well as other research, 10 genes were identified as being related to mood state. By determining whether the genes were active or not in the blood, researchers could predict high or low moods.

More research is needed, but such a blood test could put mental illness on par with tests for other medical conditions, says Dr. Carlos Pato, chair of the psychiatry department at the USC Medical school in Los Angeles.  It could help physicians to better understand mental illness and provide the best treatments for each individual.

Ethical concerns do exist about genetic testing, involving privacy and potential stigma and discrimination. In response to an unscientific MSNBC poll of more than 10,000 readers, 83% though a blood test would be good because it would help people get treatment they need; 12% thought not, because the information could be used against them; 5% didn’t know.

Additional Resources

Bipolar disorder fact sheet

Research Materials