Lithium salt, circadian rhythms and a new treatment for bipolar disorder


Bipolar disorder is characterized by states of mania and depression. Between 1% and 3% of the population are affected by it.

Mood swings in bipolar disorder has been associated with disruptions in circadian rhythms which are the 24-hour rhythms controlled by our body clocks that manage day and night. Lithium salt or lithium chloride has been the go-to treatment for bipolar disorder but little has been known about how it worked or how it affected circadian rhythms.

“Our study has shown a new and potent effect of lithium in increasing the amplitude, or strength, of the clock rhythms, revealing a novel link between the classic mood-stabilizer, bipolar disorder and body clocks,” said Dr. Qing-Jun Meng, lead researcher from the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences. “By tracking the dynamics of a key clock protein, we discovered that lithium increased the strength of the clockwork in cells up to three-fold by blocking the actions of an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase or GSK3. Our findings are important for two reasons: firstly, they offer a novel explanation as to how lithium may be able to stabilize mood swing sin bipolar patients; secondly, they open up opportunities to develop new drugs for bipolar disorder that mimic and even enhance the effect lithium has on GSK3 without the side-effects lithium salts can cause.”

Side effects from lithium salts can include nausea, acne, thirstiness, muscle weakness, tremor, sedation and/or confusion. GSK3 inhibiting drugs are already in development and prove promising for people who suffer with bipolar disorder.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, PLoS One

ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration

Email Social