Bipolar Lithium Imaging and Spectroscopy Study (BLISS)

Bipolar disorder is a common, highly recurrent and debilitating psychiatric illness. Lithium can effectively treat and prevent mania and depression and reduce risk of suicide. However, lithium does not work for everyone. It would be useful to be able to predict who will respond well to lithium before they start taking it, but we lack the ability to usefully predict response to lithium. Clinical predictors of lithium response require an established period of illness, however relying on these delays potentially prevents effective treatment.

Magnetic resonance (MR) techniques hold great potential in predicting response to lithium. In a large cross-sectional study, we will systematically appraise the structure and composition of the brain in lithium responders and non-responders, in comparison with control groups. The potential predictive value of MR variables in isolation and combination will be determined, in anticipation of future randomised, controlled longitudinal studies.

Our advanced multimodal MR techniques will be supplemented by the development and application of a novel multinuclear 7Li true 3D imaging sequence. This will provide high-resolution images of the distribution of lithium in the brain, analysed with respect to response.

Who can take part?

  • People with bipolar disorder who currently take lithium
  • People with bipolar disorder who have never taken lithium
  • Healthy volunteers with no history of psychiatric illness

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