Since bipolar disorder is inherently a longitudinal illness characterized by recurrence and cycling of mood episodes, neurobiological theories involving kindlinglike phenomena appear to possess a certain explanatory power. An approach to understanding kindlinglike phenomena at the molecular level has been made possible by advances in research on second-messenger systems in the brain. The time frame of interest has shifted from the microseconds of presynaptic events to hours, days, months, and even years in the longer duration of events beyond the synapse--through second messengers, gene regulation, and synthesis of long-acting trophic factors. These complex interlocking systems may explain how environmental stress could interact over time with genetic vulnerability to produce illness. In its two sections, this paper will review an approach to understanding two major aspects of the neurobiology of bipolar disorder: kindling phenomena and second-messenger mechanisms. We will suggest that these two fields of research together help explain the biology of recurrence.