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New clue to how lithium works in the brain

Since the 1970s, U.S. doctors have prescribed lithium to treat patients with bipolar disorder. While the drug has a good success rate, scientists are still unsure exactly how it achieves its beneficial effects. MIT biologists have now discovered a possible explanation for how lithium works. In a study of worms, the researchers identified a key protein that is inhibited by lithium, making the worms less active. While these behavioral effects in worms can’t be translated directly to humans, the results suggest a possible mechanism for lithium’s effects on the brain, which the researchers believe is worth exploring further. “How lithium acts on the brain has been this great mystery of psychopharmacology,” says Joshua Meisel, an MIT postdoc and lead author of the study. “There are hypotheses, but nothing’s been proven.” Dennis Kim, an associate professor of biology, is the senior author of the paper, which appears in the July 7 issue of Current Biology. Mysterious …

July 8, 2016 11:27 am

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