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The developmental trajectory of bipolar disorder

Duffy et al. The British Journal of Psychiatry 204.2 (2014): 122-128.


Background: Bipolar disorder is highly heritable and therefore longitudinal observation of children of affected parents is important to mapping the early natural history. Aims: To model the developmental trajectory of bipolar disorder based on the latest findings from an ongoing prospective study of the offspring of parents with well-characterised bipolar disorder. Methods: A total of 229 offspring from families in which 1 parent had confirmed bipolar disorder and 86 control offspring were prospectively studied for up to 16 years. High-risk offspring were divided into subgroups based on the parental long-term response to lithium. Offspring were clinically assessed and DSM-IV diagnoses determined on masked consensus review using best estimate procedure. Adjusted survival analysis and generalised estimating equations were used to calculate differences in lifetime psychopathology. Multistate models were used to examine the progression through proposed clinical stages. Results: High-risk offspring had an increased lifetime risk of a broad spectrum of disorders including bipolar disorder (hazard ratio (HR) = 20.89; P = 0.04), major depressive disorder (HR = 17.16; P = 0.004), anxiety (HR = 2.20; P = 0.03), sleep (HR = 28.21; P = 0.02) and substance use disorders (HR = 2.60; P = 0.05) compared with controls. However, only offspring from lithium non-responsive parents developed psychotic disorders. Childhood anxiety disorder predicted an increased risk of major mood disorder and evidence supported a progressive transition through clinical stages, from non-specific psychopathology to depressive and then manic or psychotic episodes. Conclusions: Findings underscore the importance of a developmental approach in conjunction with an appreciation of familial risk to facilitate earlier accurate diagnosis in symptomatic youth.

The Early Natural History of Bipolar Disorder: What We Have Learned From Longitudinal High-Risk Research

 Duffy, Anne. Can J Psychiatry 55 (2010). 477-485. 


Longitudinal high-risk research has provided convergent evidence that major mood and psychotic disorders often develop from nonspecific antecedents in predisposed people over time and development. For example, bipolar disorder (BD) appears to evolve from nonspecific childhood antecedents, including anxiety and sleep problems, followed by adjustment and minor mood disturbances through early adolescence, culminating in major mood episodes in later adolescence and early adulthood. Therefore, the current cross-sectional symptom-based diagnostic approach requires rethinking: it considers neither the familial risk nor the longitudinal clinical course, with the consequence that the early stages of illness are not recognized as belonging to the end-stage disorder. Emerging evidence of identifiable clinical stages in the development of BD has tremendous potential for early identification, development of stage-specific treatments, and advancing our understanding of the pathophysiology associated with illness onset and progression. The clinical staging model also has direct implications for the optimal organization of clinical services for high-risk youth. Specifically, specialty psychiatric programs are needed that break down traditional institutional barriers to provide surveillance and timely comprehensive psychiatric assessment during the entire risk period, from childhood through to early adulthood. In this regard, the development of specialty psychiatric programs aiming to identify youth in the early stages of evolving psychosis are substantially ahead of services for youth in the early stages of evolving major mood disorders.





Lithium in Neuropsychiatry: the Comprehensive Guide.

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