Psychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, affect millions of people around the world. Without intervention, they can have devastating effects and interfere with daily life. Decades of research led to a variety of therapeutic options for people with psychiatric disorders, but how well they work varies greatly from person to person. Researchers in neuroscience and related disciplines are studying genes and brain areas affected by psychiatric disorders in animals and humans in an effort to develop better therapies alongside more traditional treatments.
Recent studies are helping scientists identify factors that increase the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder, including a person’s genetic makeup and exposure to early life stress or brain trauma. Researchers are also finding structural differences in brains of people with some psychiatric disorders. Scientists hope this information will create new paths to treatments that offer faster relief with fewer side effects, and diagnostic tests that identify psychiatric disorders earlier.