Mood Disorders Research Group

Photo of staff members at the BDRN Christmas Meeting 2012

Group leader: Dr Lisa Jones

Overview

The Mood Disorders Research Group focuses on investigations of bipolar disorder (manic depression) and other related affective and psychotic illnesses, such as schizoaffective disorder, major depression and puerperal psychosis (postpartum psychosis). Our broad aims are to investigate genetic and other factors that may contribute to the causes of these illnesses.

Our research group

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression or manic-depressive illness, refers to severe episodes of mood disturbance that affect a person’s ability to function normally. This occurs in at least 1% of the population. Bipolar disorder is characterised by disturbances in mood ranging from depression to elation. These mood changes may also be accompanied by alterations in thinking and perception, including psychotic features (delusions and hallucinations). Bipolar disorder can cause a great deal of suffering and, although treatments such as medication and psychotherapy are helpful, there are still many people who do not respond adequately or who suffer troublesome adverse side effects.

We know that there can be a variety of factors that lead some people to experience depression or mania, for example, a vulnerability that runs in the family or stressful life events. Our group is conducting research to examine more closely the factors which contribute to mood disorders. These include biological factors, such as a genetic predisposition, as well as psychological factors, such as characteristic ways of thinking, and environmental factors, for example stressful life events. Such research, aimed at improving our understanding of mood disorders, will facilitate future advances in the prevention and treatment of these debilitating illnesses.

Our research is funded by two of the world’s leading medical research charities, the Wellcome Trust and the Stanley Medical Research Institute. Along with our colleagues at Cardiff University, we founded the UK Bipolar Disorder Research Network

Over 5000 people have already participated in our research programme, which is now the largest such study anywhere in the world. We are, however, still looking for more volunteers to help us - every additional person who helps will bring the possibility of much-needed scientific advances nearer.

If you have bipolar disorder and would like to help, please call us on 0121 301 2361 or email moodresearch@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Childbirth is a potent trigger of bipolar disorder in women.  Birmingham has been a centre for high quality research into perinatal psychiatry for many years with the work of Professor Ian Brockington and Dr Ian Jones. We research all aspects of pregnancy-triggered bipolar disorders, from work on subclinical hypomanic symptoms (the highs, postnatal hypomania) to postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis (or puerperal psychosis). We have close links to Birmingham’s Mother & Baby Unit and host Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), which is a network of 600 women throughout the UK who have suffered from bipolar or psychosis episodes following childbirth.

If you would like to help with research into postpartum psychosis or would like more information about what it is, visit www.app-network.org or email app@app-network.org.

Current Projects

Bipolar Disorder Study
Over 5000 people have already participated in our Bipolar Disorder Study and it is now the largest such study anywhere in the world. We are, however, still looking for more volunteers to help us with our research - every additional person who helps will bring the possibility of much-needed scientific advances nearer.

Schizophrenia / Bipolar Disorder Study
We are studying the relationship between psychosis and mood disorder. This will improve diagnosis and help us to understand more about the causes of these illnesses. We are looking for individuals who may have received varying diagnoses of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (or schizoaffective disorder) at some time during their illness.

Episodes of Mood Illness in Relation to Childbirth
Childbirth often triggers a severe episode of illness in a woman with bipolar disorder (this may be called “puerperal psychosis” or “postpartum psychosis”). We are investigating the strong link between mood disorder and childbirth. We are keen to hear from women with bipolar disorder who have experienced episodes of mood disorder in relation to childbirth. Please see the Action on Postpartum Psychosis website for further information.

If you would like to find out more about our research and discuss possibly participating in our studies, please contact us. We will be delighted to hear from you.

Our telephone number is 0121 301 2361 or you can email us. 

The UK Postpartum Psychosis Network

This Big Lottery funded project aims to address the isolation and lack of information women and their families face when recovering from postpartum psychosis.

Information from our research studies into postpartum psychosis and from other research groups from around the world will be used to create a central web information resource about postpartum psychosis for patients, the public and health professionals. Recovered women and their partners will be trained in engaging with the media, conducting service user led research, offering peer support, and developing patient information.

For more information, email Dr Jessica Heron ( j.c.heron@bham.ac.uk ), or visit our website: http:// www.app-network.org.

See our peer support forum: http://app-network.healthunlocked.com/.

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ActionOnPP or Twitter: ActionOnPP.

Recent Publications

  • E K Green et al (2011) DISC1 exon 11 rare variants found more commonly in schizoaffective spectrum cases than controls. American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics 156B (4);490-492
  • M L Hamshere et al (2011) Polygenic dissection of the bipolar phenotype. British Journal of Psychiatry 198;284-288
  • E K Green et al (2010) Bipolar disorder risk allele at CACNA1C also confers risk to recurrent major depression and to schizophrenia. Molecular Psychiatry 15(10);1016-1022
  • Craddock N, et al (2010) Strong genetic evidence for a selective influence of GABAA  receptors on a component of the bipolar disorder phenotype. Molecular Psychiatry 15(2):146-53
  • Jones LA et al (2010).Cognitive style, personality and vulnerability to the postpartum triggering of major depression. British Journal of Psychiatry 196;200-205

Staff

Principal Investigators 
Dr Lisa Jones
Dr Rachel Upthegrove
Dr Jessica Heron

Postdoctoral Researchers
Dr Katherine Gordon-Smith

Research Assistants
Amy Green
Amy Perry
Amie Shoebotham

PhD Students
Jennifer De Souza