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We still don’t have a deep understanding of the basic biology of psychiatric disease. A new paper appearing in PNAS this week, however, begins to unravel the fundamental biological mechanisms of bipolar disorder — and why the drug lithium works only in some patients.

The findings suggest a means to develop next-generation psychiatric drugs that might have fewer side effects than lithium, and perhaps ultimately allow for better diagnostics of bipolar disorder.

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  • Actually I’m surprised it works in one third. Lithium is indicated only for mania and has no effect on the depressive component. Lithium plus a generic SSRI or even a tricyclic works for most patients with true bipolar disorder.

    • Just seen someone use descriptive language in the sense if a comment. ‘true sense if bipolar’? I hope this dearly wasn’t an option without a diagnosis that the reader dies not have. I don’t think you can really fully done up a bipolar as there is different spectrums which can be a unique as the person as it affects.

    • Well, I don’t know if this helps but genetic abnormalities in the brain’s ion channels is consistent with my experience as a patient.

      I have Type 1 bipolar disorder (was diagnosed at 17, am now 32) and lithium is the ONLY medication that has consistently improved my quality of life without extreme side effects. Everything else I’ve tried has either didn’t work, suppressed my immune system or eventually started giving me palsy.

      I’ve also noticed that dietary changes have a significant effect on my symptoms — I have stopped cooking with salt entirely (except baking), I eat 2 bananas per day, I drink cranberry juice like its going out of style even though I hate the taste of it, and I take in at least 100mg of caffeine every day.

      At the same time, if I take a multivitamin for 3 or more days in a row I become extremely irritable and prone to dehydration. Almost all of that jives with this finding.

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