VA study to better understand schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is conducting research involving Veterans with schizophrenia or bipolar illness. This effort is part of a national multicenter study of approximately 25 sites across the country, coordinated by the VA Cooperative Studies Program.

At each site, participants are asked to give a small (one-tube) blood sample, answer a short questionnaire, and complete paper-based assessments; however, they are not asked to take any study medications nor undergo any invasive procedures.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are chronic mental health conditions that can generate considerable lifelong disability. Both conditions are known to have major genetic or inherited components, possibly explaining how severe the disease is, how well treatments work, and how day-to-day functioning is affected.

The goal of this study is to compare the DNA or the genes of Veterans with schizophrenia or with bipolar illness to the DNA of Veterans without these conditions. This approach will help researchers identify genetic risk factors related to these conditions and how severely they affect Veterans. Researchers will also evaluate tests shown in the past to describe real-world functional problems, such as managing a checkbook.

The study will also establish a specimen and data bank for future research to help Veterans with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Treatments for these conditions have improved in the last few years, but are still associated with relatively high rates of side effects. The study could therefore also possibly help to identify which patients do better receiving certain medications.

Veterans are eligible to participate if they have been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar illness and receive health care at a VA facility. The 3-hour sessions take place at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and consist of providing a small blood sample, filling-out questionnaires about symptoms and medical history, and completing tests of memory and thinking.