Psychiatry is constructed around a taxonomy of several hundred diagnoses differentiated by nuances in the timing, co-occurrence, and severity of symptoms. Bipolar disorder (BD) is notable among these diagnoses for manic, depressive, and psychotic symptoms all being core features. Here, we trace current understanding of the neurobiological origins of BD and related diagnoses. To provide context, we begin by exploring the historical origins of psychiatric taxonomy. We then illustrate how key discoveries in pharmacology and neuroscience gave rise to a generation of neurobiological hypotheses about the origins of these disorders that facilitated therapeutic innovation but failed to explain disease pathogenesis. Lastly, we examine the extent to which genetics has succeeded in filling this void and contributing to the construction of an objective classification of psychiatric disturbance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


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