Lithium lengthens circadian period of cultured brain slices in area specific manner

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Abstract

Lithium has been used for the treatment of bipolar disorder (BD). However, the mechanisms how lithium exerts its mood stabilizing effects remain to be studied. The disorder in circadian pacemaking has been suggested as an underlying mechanism of the characteristic mood instability of the BD. Lithium is also known to lengthen the circadian periods. We recently proposed that chronic methamphetamine treatment induced circadian oscillation as a complex oscillator including multiple dopaminergic brain areas, and the complex oscillator regulates behavior rhythm independent from the central circadian oscillator in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Sleep-wake pattern of rapid cycling BD exhibits similar rhythm disorganization to methamphetamine treated animals. Therefore, we hypothesized that the dysregulated circadian rhythm in BD patients is caused by desynchronization of sleep-wake rhythms from the central clock in the SCN, and that mood stabilizing effect of lithium is achieved through their resynchronization. In the present experiment, we examined how lithium affects the circadian rhythms of brain areas involved in the complex oscillator as well as the SCN. Here we report that lithium lengthens the circadian periods in the SCN, olfactory bulb, median eminence and substantia nigra with dose and area specific manner. The effective lithium dose was much higher than the plasma levels that are required for lengthening the circadian behavior rhythms as well for therapeutic use. Low dose of lithium did not lengthen the period but enhanced the amplitude of circadian rhythms, which may exert therapeutic effects on BD.

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