Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

The role of the amygdala in bipolar disorder development

Amy Garretta1 and Kiki Changa1 c1

a1 Stanford University School of Medicine


The amygdala has received great interest as a possible neurophysiological substrate of bipolar disorder (BD). This review summarizes information about the structure and function of the amygdala with attention to its role in experienced emotion and mood. We review the evidence for amygdala pathology in psychiatric conditions and discuss the role of the amygdala in BD during development. There appear to be consistent findings in the neuroimaging literature that suggest an etiological model for BD that involves abnormalities in the structure and function of the amygdala, but also depends on the failure of prefrontal cortical regions to modulate amygdala activity. In addition, evidence is accumulating to suggest that this model has flexible outcomes, depending on factors intrinsic and extrinsic to BD, and may follow several possible paths across the course of maturational development.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Kiki D. Chang, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305-5540; E-mail:


Both authors shared equally in the preparation of the manuscript. This work was supported by NIH Grant 5RO1MH077047 (to K.C.).