Toward a Valid Animal Model of Bipolar Disorder: How the Research Domain Criteria Help Bridge the Clinical-Basic Science Divide

Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Jan 1;79(1):62-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.09.002. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


Bipolar disorder is a diagnostically heterogeneous disorder, although mania emerges as a distinct phenotype characterized by elevated mood and increased activity or energy. While bipolar disorder's cyclicity is difficult to represent in animals, models of mania have begun to decode its fundamental underlying neurobiology. When psychostimulants such as amphetamine or cocaine are administered to rodents, a resulting upsurge of motor activity is thought to share face and predictive validity with mania in humans. Studying black Swiss mice, which inherently exhibit proclivity for reward seeking and risk taking, also has yielded some insight. Further, translating the biology of bipolar disorder in humans into animal models has led to greater understanding of roles for candidate biological systems such as the GRIK2 and CLOCK genes, as well as the extracellular signal-related kinase pathway involved in the pathophysiology of the illness. The National Institute of Mental Health Research Domain Criteria initiative seeks to identify building blocks of complex illnesses like bipolar disorder in hopes of uncovering the neurobiology of each, as well as how each fits together to produce syndromes like bipolar disorder or why so many mental illnesses co-occur together. Research Domain Criteria-driven preclinical models of isolated behaviors and domains involved in mania and bipolar disorder will ultimately inform movement toward nosology supported by neurobiology.

Keywords: Animal models; Bipolar disorder; CLOCK; ERK; Mania; RDoC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bipolar Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder* / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder* / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / methods*