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Patricia Suppes

From Crayfish to Bipolar Disorder

Posted on December 3, 2007

Patricia Suppes (bio) found that her career in basic science had key similarities to her later work in bipolar disorder.


I started work on crayfish when I was an undergraduate at Stanford. I got very interested in neuroscience. Don Kennedy, who was later president of Stanford and also editor of Science, was actually my first mentor, and we were in a new major at Stanford University called Human Biology, and it was a tour of basically all of the sciences and the social sciences, so you sort of had lectures on everything. It was for the person who didn’t know what they wanted to do.

So, in the process of that, Don Kennedy gave a fabulous, wonderful lecture on how we have visual perception and how images we see out here, go through the retina and the brain and how then we perceive them. And I got completely fascinated by neuroscience and actually was immediately interested in some of the more psychiatric versus neurological dimensions of that.

And then I was a bit torn between doing a Ph.D. or an M.D. or both, and I went down and did a Ph.D. at UCLA, it was actually in anatomy, but where my specialty was in neurophysiology. So, I actually did really quite basic science for many years. So, single cell recordings, and I think the irony relative to what I’m doing now is I was interested in the modulation of excitability, which is, of course, the hallmark of bipolar disorder in many ways.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 International Conference on Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.


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