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Reviewing Medications for Bipolar Disorder: Understanding the Mechanisms of Action

J Clin Psychiatry 2009;70(1):e02

Modern psychiatry is beginning to understand mood disorders according to a neuroplastic rather than a neurochemical model. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ongoing ability to restructure itself over a lifetime by making new neural connections. Patients with mood disorders have been found to have neuroplastic changes, including reductions in hippocampal volume, glial and neuronal cell density, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Using the neuroplasticity model of mood disorders, specific neurobiological mechanisms can be targeted for treatment.

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