The Genetics of Bipolar Disorder

Neuropsychiatric geneticist Dr. Jehannine Austin provides a fascinating insight into the “bipolar gene” and “bipolar jar”, genetic and environmental factors that increase the risk for bipolar disorder, the latest in genetic testing for bipolar disorder, and what you should know before having children as a parent with bipolar disorder.

Hosted by Dr. Erin Michalak.

Dr Jehannine Austin talkBD Bipolar Disorder Podcast

Dr. Jehannine Austin is the Executive director of the BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute and Professor in Psychiatry & Medical Genetics. Dr. Austin is a board-certified genetic counselor and their research work involves studying the impact of genetic counseling for people with bipolar disorder and psychiatric disorders, and their families. Dr. Austin heads the Translational Psychiatric Genetics Group which includes the world’s first specialist psychiatric genetic counselling service. Dr. Austin member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr. Austin’s work aims to make psychiatric genetics relevant to people with mental illness and their families by developing new counseling-based and biologically-based treatments.

Chapters & Timestamps

01:05 About Dr. Austin
05:43 The “Bipolar Gene”
09:05 Stressful Life Events (Triggers)
14:08 The “Bipolar Jar” (Environment vs. Genes)
18:55 Your Genetic Vulnerability to Bipolar Disorder
22:50 Preventing Bipolar Episodes (Protective Factors)
28:02 Top Protective Factors
30:23 Genetic Counselling
32:20 Genetic Testing for Bipolar Disorder
41:20 Pharmacogenomics (Genetic Testing for Medication)
46:51 A Message To Those Planning to Have Children


How Genetics & Your Life Experiences Cause Bipolar Disorder
Can Genetic Tests Find The Right Depression Medication For You In 2023?
Can Bipolar Disorder Be Predicted or Diagnosed by Genetic Testing In 2023?
Should You Have Children If You Have Bipolar Disorder?


Questions and comments?

  • Is there a “bipolar gene” and how much of bipolar disorder is from genetic factors or hereditary?

  • After I was diagnosed, I resented my parents for years for bringing me into this world, knowing that my
    bipolar could be passed down. My mother accepted responsibility and tremendous guilt for all my suffering over the years. Today as a parent to two young boys, I already feel the dread and guilt that history may repeat itself. How should I approach this topic with my kids now, and what should I tell them if they eventually develop bipolar disorder?

  • What information do we have about the relationship of Bipolar Disorder and the HPA Axis? Specifically the “negative feedback loop”. What role does the ventral hippocampus play in the inhibition of the HPA Axis? Does the “negative feedback loop” get damaged and then dysfunction with Bipolar Disorder, when there is acute or ongoing stress? Time for us to get down to the “cause” of Bipolar Disorder.

  • I believe the genetic is responsible in that it is the gene that causes the ‘lack’ of a certain Enzyme that cause the abnormal metaboilc pathways causing thsoe brain synepses to over react as such it is an immune modulated condition that can be treated by finding that Gene(s) that are responsible for this ONE particular Enzyme and the chain reactions to to it leading to the imbalance of brain cells synapses

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