Neuropsychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (BD), major depressive disorder (MDD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are a huge burden on society, impairing the health of those affected, as well as their ability to learn and work. Biomarkers that reflect the dysregulations linked to neuropsychiatric diseases may potentially assist the diagnosis of these disorders. Most of these biomarkers are found in the brain tissue, which is not easily accessible. This is the challenge for the search of novel biomarkers that are present in various body fluids, including serum or plasma. As a group of important endogenous small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression at post-transcriptional level, microRNAs (miRNAs) play a crucial role in many physiological and pathological processes. Previously, researchers discovered that miRNAs contribute to the neurodevelopment and maturation, including neurite outgrowth, dendritogenesis and dendritic spine formation. These developments underline the significance of miRNAs as potential biomarkers for diagnosing and prognosing central nervous system diseases. Accumulated evidence indicates that there are considerable differences between the cell-free miRNA expression profiles of healthy subjects and those of patients. Therefore, circulating miRNAs are likely to become a new class of noninvasive, sensitive biomarkers. Despite the fact that little is known about the origin and functions of circulating miRNAs, their essential roles in the clinical diagnosis and prognosis of neuropsychiatric diseases make them attractive biomarkers. In this review we cover the increasing amounts of dataset that have accumulated in the last years on the use of circulating miRNAs and their values as potential biomarkers in most areas of neuropsychiatric diseases.
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