Lithium Produces Structural Changes in the Brain

By Staff Writer

Individuals who fail to seek treatment for depression and bipolar disorder tend to have smaller brain volumes than healthy people. However, taking medication for the conditions has been shown by an international group of researchers to restore brain volume.

The investigation focused on the use of lithium. Brian Hallahan of the National University of Ireland collected brain imaging scans from other researchers around the world and compared them to each other.

Individuals who suffered from bipolar disorder had sings of atrophy in areas of the brain associated with emotion compared to healthy participants. However, those who were taking lithium for the disorder had brain volumes that were closer to normal.

The researchers said that their findings make a strong case for using lithium to treat mood disorders. Rather than just masking the symptoms of these conditions, it actually causes structural changes in the brain that may mitigate the effects of mental illness.

Treatment with lithium and similar medications is a common component of therapies for depression at drug rehab and mental health facilities.