Pharmacological Manipulation of the Circadian Clock: A Possible Approach to the Management of Bipolar Disorder

Alessandra Porcu, Robert Gonzalez, Michael J. McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Bipolar disorder (BD) is a mood disorder with genetic and neurobiological underpinnings, characterized primarily by recurrent episodes of mania and depression, with notable disruptions in rhythmic behaviors such as sleep, energy, appetite and attention. The chronobiological links to BD are further supported by the effectiveness of various treatment modalities such as bright light, circadian phase advance, and mood-stabilizing drugs such as lithium that have effects on the circadian clock. Over the past 30 years, the neurobiology of the circadian clock has been exquisitely described and there now exists a detailed knowledge of key signaling pathways, neurotransmitters and signaling mechanisms that regulate various dimensions of circadian clock function. With this new wealth of information, it is becoming increasingly plausible that new drugs for BD could be made by targeting molecular elements of the circadian clock. However, circadian rhythms are multidimensional and complex, involving unique, time-dependent factors that are not typically considered in drug development. We review the organization of the circadian clock in the central nervous system and briefly summarize data implicating the circadian clock in BD. We then consider some of the unique aspects of the circadian clock as a drug target in BD, discuss key methodological considerations and evaluate some of the candidate clock pathways and systems that could serve as potential targets for novel mood stabilizers. We expect this work will serve as a roadmap to facilitate the development of compounds acting on the circadian clock for the treatment of BD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-999
Number of pages19
JournalCNS Drugs
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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