Website Search

Flash Player may be required. Please install and enable Flash.

ID 2085

Lithium: how it might protect the brain

Professor Wayne Drevets discusses ways in which lithium may affect bipolar disorder. It affects multiple neurotransmitter systems and may protect brain structures that are atrophied in bipolar disorder.
The treatments for bipolar disorder were initially discovered serendipitously. Lithium for example remains one of the most frequently used and effective treatments for bipolar disorder, but lithium has a number of different targets in the brain and so we haven’t learned very much specific information from lithium’s effect. Some of the things that lithium does are now targets for a great deal of research. One of those things is that lithium will decrease the function or change the function of some second messenger systems. And so it will give a way that you could have multiple neurotransmitter systems affected or damped-down by just the one effect of lithium. Another thing that lithium does is that it has very robust neuroprotective and neurotrophic effects. It’s thought that lithium may partly have its effect in the brain by restoring the structure, some of these structural abnormalities that occur in bipolar disorder. For example, the reductions in grey matter volume that exist in the hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex, there is now some evidence that suggests lithium can actually reverse those changes. Similarly in those experimental animal models I was referring to where you’ve got repeated stress causing atrophy in the same structures, lithium has the capability of reversing those atrophic changes. So, one impact of lithium might be on the neuroplasticity of the brain.
lithium, bipolar, disorder, prefrontal, cortex, neurotransmitter, systems, neuroplasticity, hippocampus, stress, wayne, drevets
Creative Commons License This work by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Related content:

2223. Bipolar disorder
An overview of bipolar disorder-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.
2084. Biochemistry and neuropathology of bipolar disorder
Professor Wayne Drevets discusses the amygdala, striatum, and prefrontal cortex as neural correlates of bipolar disorder. Mania and depression may link to the dopamine system.
2357. Biochemical Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Doctor Ellen Leibenluft discusses biochemical treatments for biploar disorder, including pescriptions of lithium and Valproate, which target second-messenger systems.
2082. Depressed learning
Professor Wayne Drevets discusses specific types of learning deficits associated with depression. These may be caused by biochemical impairments in long-term potentiation.
2087. Brain cells and depression/bipolar disorder
Professor Wayne Drevets explains that specific glial cells known as oligodendrocytes may be decreased in the brains of individuals who have bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.
2278. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) - Demonstration
Professor Wayne Drevets explains how positron emission tomography (PET) is used to examine biochemicals in the brain such as serotonin.
2086. Treating bipolar disorder: the dopamine system
Professor Wayne Drevets describes how dopamine receptor antagonists can stop mania. Similarly, enhancing dopamine function can enhance depression.
2358. Neurotransmitters Systems Work Together
Doctor Ellen Leibenluft explains that neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the brain are heavily inter-connected and work together as a system.
2218. Parasympathetic systems, risk, and the brain
Professor Bruce McEwen describes how the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex mediate the parasympathetic system, which is associated with risk-taking.
1465. BDNF Gene
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is mainly expressed in the central nervous system. It has attracted much attention as a depression candidate gene.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
CSHL HomeAbout CSHLResearchEducationPublic EventsNewsstandPartner With UsGiving