Psychiatrists have long been befuddled by the therapeutic effects of Lithium and the biological basis of bipolar disorder. Neuroscientifically Challenged has a recent post on the “mystery of mania” outlining some recent research on the topic.
BPD involves a spectrum of symptoms, and sorting out the mechanisms behind its occurrence has been expectedly complicated. No single gene has been identified as being responsible for BPD, and its complexity has prohibited scientists from being able to recreate the disorder reliably in animals for study. Recently, however, a group of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified a gene that seems to be related to manic states in mice.
The scientists knocked the gene out (rendered it inoperable) and found…
The KO mice exhibited behavior that was consistent with mania. This was measured with a battery of tests, which showed the mice to be more aggressive, more active, and less inhibited. They were also overly sensitive to amphetamine administration, and their hyperactivity was mitigated by the administration of lithium, a mood stabilizer and common treatment for BPD.
Spectrum disorders, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism, have long baffled the scientific community despite abundant funding and exhaustive research efforts. The discovery of a potential gene for bipolar disorder is notable because it’s a candle in a dark room.