Research Studies: Bipolar Disorder

DBSA does not endorse nor recommend any particular research study. Patients should discuss all options with their health care providers and family members before beginning any study.

Many people think that participating in a research study means they will get better treatment for their illness. While this may be true, it's important to remember that a research study is conducted for research purposes—it does not ensure better or safer treatment.

Taking part in a study does not guarantee individual benefits to the participant in the form of newer or safer treatment. The contribution made participating in a research study is to science first and to the patient second.

DBSA, its advisors, and consultants do not endorse or recommend the use of any specific treatment or medication. For advice about specific treatment or medication, patients should consult their physicians and/or mental health professionals.

The Phenomenology of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder (Phone interviews)

The purpose of this study is to increase our understanding of the experience of early-onset bipolar disorder. Participants must currently be between ages 18-25 and have received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder during adolescence (between ages 13-17).

Study participants will participate in one telephone interview lasting 45-60 minutes in length to discuss their experience of bipolar disorder during adolescence (age 13-17).

Participant information is collected via telephone; there are no study sites or travel required. Additionally, no treatment interventions are provided.

Participants will receive a $20 gift card as compensation for their time.

Existing research on bipolar disorder during adolescence focuses primarily on issues such as identifying factors that may contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder and medications to treat symptoms. Research on the experience of bipolar disorder during adolescence is limited.

This study will significantly increase how we understand bipolar disorder as well as how bipolar disorder affects teenagers and the changes they encounter during adolescence (experience of symptoms, stigma and self-stigma, interaction with the healthcare system, social and family relationships, and transition into emerging adulthood).

Kristin Smyth
Phone: (407) 865-2404

Deadline for Enrollment: 12/31/16

Stanford Daily REST Study (San Francisco Bay Area)

The Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University is recruiting 14-21 year old youth who have bipolar disorder to participate in a PAID research study on sleep and mood patterns.

Sleep is commonly disrupted in adults who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, there has been limited investigation of sleep in youth bipolar disorder. Our aim is to better understand sleep in youth diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and to explore the relation of sleep to mood in this population. The goal of this work is to help advance new treatments for youth affected with bipolar disorder.

The study has 3 parts:

  • One visit by parent and youth to our lab for interviews and questionnaires.
  • Two nights of sleep assessment in your home. Trained members of our team will set up a device that measures sleep in your home, then leave. We pick up the device the following morning.
  • Three weeks in which we ask the youth to complete a brief daily diary using his/her cell phone and to wear a special wristwatch.

You will receive $215 for completing the study.

Anda Gershon
Phone: 650-736-2689

Deadline for Enrollment: 4/1/2018

Genetic Assessment of Positive Traits in the Bipolar and Schizophrenia Spectra (La Jolla, CA)

UCSD Department of Psychiatry needs your help with their investigation of positive traits associated with bipolar spectrum disorders.


Testing may last 4 to 8 hours.

Participants Must Be:

  • Diagnosed with bipolar disorder OR a healthy relative of someone with bipolar disorder
  • Between the ages of 21 an 65 years

Your Participation Will Entail:

  • An interview about your medical & psychiatric history
  • Completion of several personality, mood, and life experience questionnaires
  • Completion of a series of problem-solving tests
  • Providing a saliva sample for DNA

Please call (858) 246-1888 or email for more information.

Lauren Schwarz
Phone: 858-246-1888

Deadline for Enrollment: Ongoing

Efficacy and Safety Trial of Flexible Doses of Oral Ziprasidone in Children and Adolescents With Bipolar I Disorder (Columbus, Ohio)

The purpose of this research study is to compare the effects of the study drug, ziprasidone, with a placebo to find out which is better for treating manic episodes in children with Bipolar I Disorder. Ziprasidone is approved in the US for the treatment of acute mania and mixed states associated with bipolar disorder in adults.

Mood stabilizers and antipsychotics are not allowed during the study. Participants have 1 in 2 chance of receiving placebo for 6 weeks. Paid post study care will be available to all study participants at the end of their participation in the study.

Erin Casey
Phone: 614-293-7109

Deadline for Enrollment: January 2018

The Phenomenology of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder (Phone Interview)

The purpose of this qualitative study is to increase understanding of the experience of early-onset bipolar disorder (EOBD) through self-report of emerging adults ages 18-25 with a history of diagnosis of bipolar disorder during adolescence (age 13-17). Semi-structured interviews will elicit a deeper knowledge of EOBD through subjects' descriptive accounts. This study will use first-person qualitative data to address aspects of EOBD such as onset, diagnosis, and experience of symptoms; psychosocial and identity development; stigma; treatment interventions; and developmental changes occurring through emerging adulthood.

Participants must be young adults ages 18-25 who received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder during adolescence (age 13 - 17).

Participants will complete telephone interviews (1-2 phone calls) to provide their experience of bipolar disorder during adolescence.

Within the last 20 years, the prevalence of bipolar disorder diagnoses prior to age 18 has increased at a rate disproportionate to our understanding of its phenomenology. While cumulative research has explored the neurobiological etiology of EOBD, significant limitations remain in the development and delivery of psychosocial rehabilitation interventions targeted to issues of stigma, individual and family functioning, and symptom management. Bipolar disorder has historically been conceptualized and operationalized in both research and clinical settings as an adult disorder, with the onset and course of symptoms diagnosed and treated after 18 years of age.

However, bipolar symptoms often begin in adolescence. Twenty-eight percent of adults with bipolar disorder reported experiencing manic and depressive symptoms prior to age 13, and 66% reported experiencing symptoms prior to age 18. EOBD is regarded as potentially difficult to diagnose accurately and treat effectively, largely due to dispute regarding diagnostic criteria, nosology, and treatment interventions. Several researchers have identified the need to improve understanding of the phenomenology of EOBD through qualitative research with the individuals who have experienced this disorder, yet first-person report of EOBD remains absent within research.

Kristin Smyth
Phone: 407-865-2404

Deadline for Enrollment: 12/1/16

Bipolar and Schizophrenia Network for Intermediate Phenotypes (Chicago, IL)

The overall goal of this study is to test for biological traits of psychosis that may be related to disorders ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder. In addition, we wish to examine whether these biological traits may be genetically inherited.

People ages 18-60 diagnosed with at least one of the following:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder with psychotic features

Participants will undergo clinical interview, cognitive testing, self-report questionnaires, one-time blood-draw to study DNA, EEG, Eye Tracking Movement recording and fMRI testing.You will receive a confidential, no-cost, evaluation to see if you qualify to enter. If eligible, you will receive a full clinical assessment at no cost. Compensation: Up to a maximum of $360.00 which includes $10 per visit travel reimbursement.

Barrett Kern
Phone: 773-834-6835

Deadline for Enrollment: 2/12/2020

Efficacy of a Kappa Opioid Receptor Antagonist for the Treatment of Anhedonia in Patients with Mood and Anxiety Disorders (Durham, North Carolina)

The goal of this study is to assess the effects of a novel drug on anhedonia (the loss of pleasure) that is associated with mood and anxiety disorders. Study subjects will take the study drug (or placebo) daily for eight weeks, with study visits every two weeks. Including Screening and Follow-up visits, there are a total of seven visits over sixteen weeks. Study assessments include brain scans, blood draws, computer tasks, physical and psychological examinations. This study drug could potentially restore the ability to experience pleasure in patients with mood and anxiety disorders, which would be of particular benefit to those patients who do not respond well to traditional medications.

Participants may not use any antidepressant, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, mood stabilizing, muscle relaxant, centrally acting antihistaminergic, stimulant or insomnia medications while participating in the study.

50% of participants will be assigned to a placebo group for 8 weeks.

Michael Koval
Phone: 919-668-4531

Deadline for Enrollment: 9/10/16

Neurocognitive Study on Adolescent Drug Abuse (Chicago, IL)

I am conducting a study on brain development and marijuana use in adolescents with and without bipolar disorder. I have been conducting clinical research in pediatric bipolar disorder for several years and I consider this project very important because of the high comorbidity between bipolar disorder and substance use that often worsens  life challenges for children and families. We are recruiting 14-18 years old adolescents with pediatric bipolar disorder, or without bipolar disorder,  who have a significant problem with marijuana use (ex, they smoke marijuana 3-4 times a week).

  • Participation takes only a one-time visit to our lab, including a brain imaging session (fMRI scan), for a total participation of about 4 hours with breaks.
  • Participation will involve: 1 hour of fMRI scanning  when the participant performs simple cognitive tasks, and about 3 hours of questionnaires and  cognitive tasks, with breaks.
  • Participants receive a compensation for their participation, and a picture of their brain.
  • Participants and parents can talk with a Psychologist about any questions they may have.
  • A packet with educational material is given to each participant.

The study is CONFIDENTIAL and the information collected will not be shared with anyone.

Participant must not be taking medication for a mental illness other than bipolar disorder, must refrain from other substance abuse up to two weeks before the day of the study, as there will be a drug test taken that day.

Dr. Alessandra Passarotti
Phone: 312-355-0109 or her lab 312-355-0433

Deadline for Enrollment: 08/30/2016

Prediction of Clinical Response to SSRI Treatment in Bipolar Disorder Using Serotonin 1A Receptor PET Imaging (New York/NY)

The study is trying to understand what causes bipolar disorder and how medications treat bipolar depression. If you participate, you will have two different brain scans (an MRI and a PET scan) and antidepressant treatment for free. We will then be able to see whether information on the brain scans connects with how people do on the medications. The medications are common, and are not experimental. You will be able to discuss the treatment with Dr. Lan before starting the study to make sure that it is the proper treatment for you. The medications include valproate (Depakote) and either fluoxetine (Prozac) or citalopram (Celexa). The study is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). You will receive $400 in compensation when you complete the brain scans and will be offered up to six months of free appointments with a Columbia psychiatrist. 

Allison Metts
Phone: 646 774 7560

Deadline for Enrollment:

A Phase 1, Multicenter, Open-label, Dose-Escalation Trial to Assess the Safety, Tolerability and Pharmacokinetics of Oral Brexpiprazole (OPC-34712) in Adolescents with Schizophrenia or Other Related Psychiatric Disorders (Baltimore, MD)

This research study is being conducted by Kennedy Krieger Institute/centers across the United States to determine whether brexpiprazole is safe and effective in adolescents with schizophrenia or a related psychiatric disorder.

If eligible, the participant will visit the Kennedy Krieger Institute up to 9 times over a period  of 102 days. Each visit will take between 30 minutes and 2 hours and will include psychological and behavioral testing, medical history, physical examination, blood draws, HIV testing, vital sign, ECG, urine drug screen, and pregnancy testing for females.

For each completed visit, participants will receive a reimbursement of $75.00 for their time and travel expenses. Please ask a study team member for specifics. All testing is done free of charge.

Please call 443-923-3850 for questions about specific co-ocurring treatments.

Rebecca Hinton
Phone: 443-923-3850

Rapid Antidepressant Effects of Ketamine in Bipolar Disorder (Bethesda, MD)

Bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD) are common, severe, chronic and often life-threatening illnesses. Impairment in physical and social functioning resulting from depression can be just as severe as other chronic medical illnesses. Recent preclinical and clinical studies suggest that the glutamatergic system is involved in the mechanism of action of antidepressants. In two separate trials, we tested riluzole (an inhibitor of glutamate release) and found it to have antidepressant properties in patients with MDD and bipolar depression (BD). In another study (Substudy 1), we found that the non-competitive NMDA antagonist (ketamine) was effective in treatment-resistant MDD. Ketamine resulted in rapid, robust and relatively sustained antidepressant effects. Response with ketamine occurred within 2 hours and last approximately 1 week. The current protocol consists of 6 subs tudies designed to address 6 major questions. Two of these studies (1 and 5) have met their enrollment quota and sufficient analyzable data has been obtained

Standard antidepressant medications can take weeks or months to achieve their full effects. Several studies seek to better understand the causes of depression and evaluate the mechanisms in the brain that are related to rapid antidepressant improvement. NIH studies enrolls depressed persons between the ages of 18 and 65 (or those with bipolar disorder who are currently in a depressive phase) for an inpatient period of 2- to 3-months.  Researchers will evaluate how the experimental medication ketamine, versus placebo, affects glutamate in the brain and whether a rapid reduction of antidepressant symptoms (within hours) can be achieved and sustained.

The studies are conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  There is no cost to participate. We enroll eligible participants locally and from around the country. Travel arrangements provided and costs covered by NIMH. (Arrangements vary by distance and by specific study.) After completing the study participants receive short-term follow-up care while transitioning back to a provider.

Participants who consent will have a multimodal MRI and MEG scan in the drug-free period before receiving the intravenous infusion of either ketamine or saline solution. They will repeat the MEG procedure 4-5 hours after each of the two infusions, and will repeat the MRI procedure between the day of infusion to two days following the infusion.

Participants who show an antidepressant response (50% reduction in MADRS) following infusion 1 or infusion 2 will undergo an interim assessment using the same MRI and MEG scan battery to assess relapse (if the response is lost) or sustained response (if the response is retained) 10 to 11 days post-infusion, depending on availability of scanning resources.   Non-responders will undergo the interim MRI and MEG scan sessions at 10 to 11 days post-infusion as scan-time allows.

In a subset of 26 participants, total sleep deprivation (TSD) for 40 hours (7am to 11pm the subsequent day) will be investigated at the behavioral and neural level as a rapid acting antidepressant prior to Phase II of this study.  Individuals who participate in this optional component of the subs study will require an additional 7 days for their drug free period. In the evening prior to the sleep deprivation period, participants will undergo a baseline 3T MRI (within 2 days of TSD) and a high field 7T MRI scan (within 2 days of TSD) to acquire images of the brain prior to sleep deprivation. This will be followed by one 7T scan after the sleep deprivation period toward the end of the 40 hour period, but before recovery sleep. During the MRI scan participants will play a simple reward-learning task and also perform a cognitive emotional task whereby emotional faces will be presented, while functional images are acquired. Additionally, two MEG scans and two sleep EEGs will be acquired to examine the electrophysiology of response and relapse. During the MEG scan participants will wear an MEG compatible EEG cap and leads. Total sleep deprivation will occur approximately 1 week following the beginning of the drug-free period.

Inclusion criteria for participants with MDD or BD

  1. Male or female subjects, 18 to 55 years of age.
  2. Age of onset less than 40 years of age.
  3. Female subjects of childbearing age must be using a medically accepted method of contraception.
  4. Each subject must have a level of understanding sufficient to agree to all required tests and examinations and sign an informed consent document.
  5. Subjects must fulfill DSM-IV criteria for Major Depression single episode or recurrent without psychotic features, or Bipolar Disorder (296.5 for Bipolar I Disorder or 296.89 for Bipolar II Disorder) without psychotic symptoms based on clinical assessment and confirmed by a structured diagnostic interview (SCID-P).
  6. Subjects must have an initial score on the MADRS of at least 20 at screening, and at baseline for Phase I of Substudy 4. Subjects with bipolar disorder must have a YMRS of 12 or less at baseline for Phase I.
  7. Current or past history of lack of response to one adequate antidepressant trial, operationally defined using the Antidepressant Treatment History Form (ATHF); a failed adequate trial of ECT would count as an adequate antidepressant trial.
  8. Current major depressive episode of at least 4 weeks duration.
  9. In women of childbearing age, a negative pregnancy test within 24 hours of MRI.

Exclusion criteria for participants with MDD or BD

  1. Current psychotic features or a diagnosis of Schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder as defined in the DSM-IV.
  2. Subjects with a history of DSM-IV drug or alcohol dependency or abuse (except for caffeine or nicotine    dependence) within the preceding 3 months. In addition, subjects who currently are using drugs (except for caffeine or nicotine) must not  have used illicit substances in the 2 weeks prior to screen and must have a negative alcohol and drug urine test (except for prescribed benzodiazepines) urine test at screening.
  3. Female subjects who are either pregnant or nursing.
  4. Serious, unstable illnesses including hepatic, renal, gastroenterologic, respiratory, cardiovascular (including ischemic heart disease), endocrinologic, neurologic, immunologic, or hematologic disease.
  5. Presence of any medical illness likely to alter brain morphology and/or physiology (e.g., hypertension, diabetes) even if controlled by medications.
  6. Clinically significant abnormal laboratory tests.
  7. Subjects with clinical hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
  8. Subjects with one or more seizures without a clear and resolved etiology.
  9. Treatment with a reversible MAOI within two weeks prior to Phase I of Substudy 4.
  10. Treatment with fluoxetine within five weeks or aripiprazole within three weeks before Phase I of Substudy 4.
  11. Treatment with any other concomitant medication (Appendix 4) 14 days prior to Phase I of Substudy 4.
  12. Presence of metallic (ferromagnetic) implants (e.g, heart pacemaker, aneurysm clip).
  13. Subjects who, in the investigator's judgment, pose a current serious suicidal or homicidal risk, or who have a MADRS item 10 score of >4.

Inclusion criteria for control subjects

  1. Age 18-55 years.
  2. Written informed consent completed.
  3. In women of childbearing age, a negative pregnancy test within 24 hours of MRI.

Exclusion criteria for control subjects

  1. Current or past Axis I diagnosis
  2. Presence of metallic (ferromagnetic) implants (e.g., heart pacemaker, aneurysm clips).
  3. Presence of medical illness likely to alter brain morphology and/or physiology (e.g., hypertension, diabetes) even if controlled by medications.
  4. Treatment with any of the exclusionary medications detailed in Appendix 4 14 days prior to Phase 1 of the Substudy 4.
  5. Current or past alcohol or substance abuse or dependence diagnosis (except for nicotine or caffeine).
  6. Presence of psychiatric disorders in first-degree relatives.
  7. Female subjects who are either pregnant or nursing.

Libby Jolkovsky, M.S.
Phone: 301-402-9347

Pathophysiology and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder as assessed by In Vivo Imaging (Stony Brook, NY)

The purpose of this study is to identify changes in the brain chemistry of patients with bipolar disorder, and to measure differences in brain chemistry before and after treatment for bipolar depression. The treatments being studied are lithium and lamotrigine (Lamictal).

Sunia Choudhury
Phone: 631-638-1544

Deadline for enrollment: 7/10/16

A Clinical Trial of Mobile Telephone based Assessment and Intervention for Persons with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia (La Jolla (San Diego), CA)

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a mobile real-time cognitive behavioral intervention for serious mental illness (SMI) and to identify the facilitators, barriers, and costs of implementation. We would like to determine whether the addition of a mobile phone monitoring software program to a brief behavioral intervention for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia improves symptoms arising from the disorders. We aim to address symptoms, improve socialization, medication adherence, and relapse prevention.

Inclusion criteria:

  • Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia
  • No CBT in the past 5 years
  • Currently on a stable dose of medication

Participants cannot receive any cognitive behavior therapy while in the study. There are three different groups. One is treatment as usual, one is active control, and one is treatment. There is an equal change of being randomized in each group.

David Isley
Phone: 858-822-7531

Deadline for Enrollment: 05/31/2017

NIH Research Studies: Bipolar Disorder & Severe Irritability Symptoms (Bethesda, Maryland)

How do the brain and the symptoms change as children grow up?
(Enrolling Nationwide, Eligible Participants Ages 6-17)

Researchers will describe over time the moods and behavior of children use specialized testing and brain imaging to learn about specific brain changes associated with bipolar disorder or severe irritability in children. Studies involve 1-5 outpatient visits, with follow up visits as the child grows up. All clinical evaluations, research procedures, and outpatient visits are free of cost. Children and parents are compensated for participation. Travel and lodging expenses are paid by NIMH.

Participants must have a bipolar diagnosis, or have symptoms of severe irritability. Irritability symptoms include: difficulty handling frustration (severe temper tantrums and rages) and "hyper" behavior (distractible, hyperactive, trouble sleeping).

Call for more information and eligibility criteria.

NIMH Irritable Kids
Phone: 301-496-8381, TTY: 1-866-411-1010

Deadline for Enrollment: Ongoing

Developing Brain Function in Adolescent (Chicago, IL)

Developing Brain Function in Adolescent Bipolar Disorder

This study focuses on the developmental changes in cognitive and affective neural circuitry functioning in adolescents with Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (PBD) over a three-year period. We will characterize the course of illness and associated neurocognitive function in patients with PBD as well as determine the association between brain function and behavior.

During the study, participants will complete a baseline diagnostic interview, clinical assessments, neurocognitive and neuropsychological tests, and a functional MRI brain scan. Participants will also have the option to draw blood for pharmacogenetic analyses. Testing will be repeated once a year for three years after the baseline visit, four visits total.

Allison Lowes
(312) 355-1168

Deadline for Enrollment: Ongoing