Andrew Nierenberg, MD ’80, delivered a keynote address, “Wonder and Amazement About the Course, Psychobiology, and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder,” in LeFrak Auditorium. Dr. Nierenberg is the Thomas P. Hackett, MD, Endowed Chair in Psychiatry and Director of the Dauten Family Center for Bipolar Treatment Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His overview of the disorder included numerous questions under investigation, including how the body’s energy and brain networks are dysregulated in people with bipolar disorder and how to treat those with depression.
Andrew Nierenberg, MD ’80
“What is really remarkable is how few treatments there are for bipolar depression,” said Dr. Nierenberg, adding that bipolar disease is “a total body disease,” not just a brain disease. “People die, and they die earlier, mostly from cardiovascular disorders and from cancer. There is something going on that is affecting people’s survival.”
Despite its prevalence (at least 2% of the population), Dr. Nierenberg said bipolar disorder is an “orphan disorder” that receives far less funding for research than other mental illnesses, such as depression. He noted that it is highly heritable, but genetic studies have not been able to pinpoint the genes and variants to understand the precise mechanisms responsible for the disorder.