BD (bipolar disorder) is a devastating condition, giving rise to debilitating mood swings and a greatly increased likelihood of suicide. Research into the origins, progression and treatment of BD has been slow, primarily due to lack of suitable model systems for BD research. However, the complexity of the neurological basis for mood, variability in patient populations and the lack of clear readouts for BD diagnosis also provide significant problems for research in this area. In this Biochemical Society Focused Meeting, held at Royal Holloway University of London, approx. 40 national and international delegates met to discuss current research into understanding BD. The talks presented at this conference covered research examining the genetic basis of the disorder, changes in patient populations, pharmacological actions of BD drugs and the development of new models systems for this research. The focus of these talks and the following papers is to help to unify and disseminate research into this important but poorly understood medical condition.