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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • immuno-inflammatory system;
  • neurodevelopment;
  • neurodegenerative hypotheses;
  • schizophrenia

Several lines of evidence point to the key role of neurobiological mechanisms and shared genetic background in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. For both disorders, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative processes have been postulated to be relevant for the pathogenesis as well as dysregulation of immuno-inflammatory pathways. Inflammation is a complex biological response to harmful stimuli and it is mediated by cytokines cascades, cellular immune responses, oxidative factors and hormone regulation. Cytokines, in particular, are supposed to play a critical role in infectious and inflammatory processes, mediating the cross-talk between the brain and the immune system; they also possibly contribute to the development of the central nervous system. From this perspective, even though mixed results have been reported, it seems that both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are associated with an imbalance in inflammatory cytokines; in fact, some of these could represent biological markers of illness and could be possible targets for pharmacological treatments. In light of these considerations, the purpose of the present paper was to provide a comprehensive and critical review of the existing literature about immunological abnormalities in bipolar disorder with particular attention to the similarities and differences with schizophrenia.