It has been said that no country controls ideas and this is especially true within academic research. New ideas come when one interacts with people from diverse backgrounds. It is through diversity of thought that one begins to see connections never seen before. Such has been the case within the Prechter Bipolar Research Program this past year as three large international collaborations have started in earnest. The goal of these collaborations is the advancement of global science in bipolar disorder and creating long-lasting collaboration networks for Prechter Program members.
Most notably, the Global Bipolar Cohort (GBC) — a collaborative where researchers from 13 institutions in 9 countries have continued to participate monthly in discussions since October 2019. These monthly discussions have led to several manuscripts and grant applications. The first research project they worked on shows depression severity in those with bipolar can predict cognitive functioning. This finding was almost universal over the participating sites. The second, using longitudinal trajectories of functioning in individuals with bipolar aims to provide insight into social and occupational impairment. Both studies creatively use data in the collective aggregate eliminating long and arduous data sharing regulatory approvals. Despite this, these studies are still able to cross cultural boundaries to understand the disorder from a human perspective.
Integration of this international data is key to research aims and is only reached by taking this large-scale approach. Two additional international collaborations have developed: The Bipolar Research in Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Collaborative (BRSCr) and the Trauma Research in Bipolar Disorder (TRIBe). These two areas have significant effect on a person’s life story and daily functioning. Each of these studies have international members who will creatively analyze data across borders.
Throughout, the collaboration has maintained and delivered upon the vision to engage early to mid-stage investigators. GBC, TRIBe and BRSCr collaboratives bring together international researchers who share a passion for science in psychiatry. Members share ideas and experiences and combine perspectives to understand the complexities of bipolar disorder in a cross-disciplinary manner. Working in these groups will provide findings beyond what one team could achieve alone.