Objective: Increasing evidence suggests that inflammation and immune dysregulation play an important role in the pathogenesis of bipolar disorder. Because the brain can be affected by various autoimmune processes, it is possible that some psychiatric disorders may have an autoimmune basis. Method: This article reviews the literature on peripheral and central immune dysregulation and autoimmunity in bipolar disorder. The mechanisms of the innate and adaptive immune systems in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder are explored. The clinical features and pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus, anti-NMDA encephalitis, and Hashimoto's encephalopathy are summarized. Results: Neuroinflammation and peripheral immune dysregulation may play a role in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. This involves a complex interaction between immune cells of the central nervous system and periphery resulting in cellular damage through mechanisms involving excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus, anti-NMDA encephalitis, and Hashimoto's encephalopathy are important differentials for a psychiatrist to consider when suspecting autoimmune encephalopathy. Conclusions: The link between immune dysregulation, autoimmunity, and bipolar disorder may be closer than previously thought. Psychiatrists should be vigilant for autoimmunity in presentations of bipolar disorder due to its high morbidity and therapeutic implications. Advances in neuroimaging and biomarker identification related to immune dysregulation and neuroinflammation will contribute to our knowledge of the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. © The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2013.
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