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Review article| Volume 52, ISSUE 6, P529-542, September 15, 2002

Development and natural history of mood disorders

      Abstract

      To expand and accelerate research on mood disorders, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) developed a project to formulate a strategic research plan for mood disorder research. One of the areas selected for review concerns the development and natural history of these disorders.
      The NIMH convened a multidisciplinary Workgroup of scientists to review the field and the NIMH portfolio and to generate specific recommendations. To encourage a balanced and creative set of proposals, experts were included within and outside this area of research, as well as public stakeholders.
      The Workgroup identified the need for expanded knowledge of mood disorders in children and adolescents, noting important gaps in understanding the onset, course, and recurrence of early-onset unipolar and bipolar disorder. Recommendations included the need for a multidisciplinary research initiative on the pathogenesis of unipolar depression encompassing genetic and environmental risk and protective factors. Specifically, we encourage the NIMH to convene a panel of experts and advocates to review the findings concerning children at high risk for unipolar depression. Joint analyses of existing data sets should examine specific risk factors to refine models of pathogenesis in preparation for the next era of multidisciplinary research. Other priority areas include the need to assess the long-term impact of successful treatment of juvenile depression and known precursors of depression, in particular, childhood anxiety disorders. Expanded knowledge of pediatric-onset bipolar disorder was identified as a particularly pressing issue because of the severity of the disorder, the controversies surrounding its diagnosis and treatment, and the possibility that widespread use of psychotropic medications in vulnerable children may precipitate the condition. The Workgroup recommends that the NIMH establish a collaborative multisite multidisciplinary Network of Research Programs on Pediatric-Onset Bipolar Disorder to achieve a better understanding of its causes, course, treatment, and prevention. The NIMH should develop a capacity-building plan to ensure the availability of trained investigators in the child and adolescent field.
      Mood disorders are among the most prevalent, recurrent, and disabling of all illnesses. They are often disorders of early onset. Although the NIMH has made important strides in mood disorders research, more data, beginning with at-risk infants, children, and adolescents, are needed concerning the etiology and developmental course of these disorders. A diverse program of multidisciplinary research is recommended to reduce the burden on children and families affected with these conditions.

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