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 where we recruited around 100 participants, the aim was to systematically appraise the structure and composition of the brain in lithium responders and non-responders, in comparison with control groups.

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

Our analysis will involve looking at the potential predictive value of MR variables in isolation and combination, in anticipation of future randomised, controlled longitudinal studies. Our work has already been influential in gaining EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation funding for a larger scale study looking at optimizing lithium treatment in individuals with bipolar disorder (see The R-LiNK Initiative [insert link to page when created]), which we are currently recruiting to.

Find out what we’ve discovered so far in Publications.

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