OBJECTIVE: The authors examined the feasibility of using olfactory receptor neurons from living patients to test whether calcium signaling is altered in a neuronal cell population in bipolar disorder. METHOD: Ratiometric fluorescence photomicroscopy was used to assess basal and stimulus-induced changes in intracellular calcium levels in biopsy-derived olfactory receptor neurons from seven euthymic patients with bipolar disorder who were medication-free, 10 euthymic patients with bipolar disorder who were treated with mood stabilizers, and 17 age- and sex-matched comparison subjects without bipolar disorder. RESULTS: Olfactory receptor neurons from the seven medication-free patients responded to stimuli predominantly with decreases in intracellular calcium, unlike those from the seven matched healthy subjects. Olfactory receptor neurons from patients treated with mood stabilizers were less likely to respond to stimulation than olfactory receptor neurons from medication-free patients. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the feasibility of using olfactory receptor neurons to examine alterations in intracellular signaling in neuronal cells from living patients. Our results, although based on a small number of subjects, suggest that altered intracellular calcium signaling in olfactory receptor neurons may be a trait of bipolar disorder.