UCSD Department of Psychiatry

  Genetics Research Program

Contact Info
Volunteers needed




Dr. John R. Kelsoe is a psychiatrist who was trained at the University of Alabama, the University of California San Diego, and the National Institute of Mental Health. He has spent the last 15 years searching for bipolar genes and is now a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

    The goal of our research team is to locate the genes that contribute to certain psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.  By doing so, we hope to determine the genes' function in the body and develop a better understanding of the basic chemical imbalances in the brain that cause individuals to experience symptoms.  We will then use this valuable information to aid in the design of better and more effective treatment interventions.  Our team accomplishes these goals by working with families and individuals affected with these conditions.

    We are currently involved in three research projects at  UC San Diego investigating mood disorders and schizophrenia.  This web site addresses bipolar research only.  We will be adding pages in the near future that describe our major depression and schizophrenia studies in detail.

Why Study Families? 

  • Bipolar disorder is genetic; that is, it "runs" in families.
  • The risk for developing bipolar disorder is seven times higher in families with a history of the illness than in the general population.
  • About 70% of what causes bipolar disorder may be genetic. 

    At present our team has three family research studies involving bipolar disorder.  We are able to do most of our work over the telephone and through the mail, though we do try to make personal visits whenever possible.  All of the information we gather for our research is strictly confidential.   We do not share information between family members or with anyone outside our own research group without explicit permission.


    The first study is a collaborative, sibling pair venture with the National Institute of Mental Health.  Brothers and sisters are the closest to each other genetically and will, therefore, provide us with extremely valuable information.  For this project we are seeking families with siblings who are experiencing bipolar symptoms.  Participation involves a confidential research interview and a blood sample.


    The second project has been underway for the last 15 years in our laboratory at UCSD.  In our triad study we are looking for one individual with bipolar symptoms and both of his/her parents.  In our random sample study we need just one individual with bipolar symptoms and no other family members.  These studies also involve a confidential research interview and blood sample.

What Does Participation Involve?

  • The volunteer process begins with a phone call to determine eligibility.
  • Interested family members will be contacted by our staff only with their permission.
  • A confidential 2-5 hour interview:  Each interested family member will talk privately with one of our staff members who will ask questions about health history and current status.
  • A blood sample:  This involves a blood draw of a few ounces.  Our staff completes the blood draws for in-person appointments.  We also have a contract with a phlebotomist group for blood draws done in volunteers' homes.
  • Each participant will be paid a token amount of $20-50 in thanks for their time and interest.

Please call toll free or email requests for further information on how to volunteer:

1-888-BP-GENES  (274-3637)

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Last updated: October 22, 2004.