The effect of lithium administration in animal
models of depression: a short review

Redrobe JP, Bourin M
GIS Medicament,
Faculte de medicine,
Nantes, France.
Fundam Clin Pharmacol 1999; 13(3):293-9


The aim of this short review was to collate the data involving the effects of lithium alone, or in combination, with antidepressant drugs in several animal models of depression. It has been shown that lithium administration reduced immobility in the mouse forced swimming test when given 30 min, but not 45 min, before testing. Further studies indicated that this activity was probably a result of an activity on serotonin (5-HT) 1A and 1B receptor subtypes. Lithium treatment has been shown to reverse helpless behaviour in the learned helplessness model of depression after chronic treatment (30 days), where lithium was administered in the drinking water. Further studies showed that acute (5 days) administration of lithium failed to reverse behavioural deficits. In the olfactory bulbectomised rat model of depression, several immunological and enzymatic functions have been shown to be altered and these changes are regularised by antidepressant treatment as well as lithium administration for 15 days. Hypokinesia (reduced locomotor activity) is a phenomenon observed following immobilisation stress in rats. This behavioural deficit was attenuated by lithium together with a wide range of antidepressant drugs used in the treatment of unipolar depression at non-stimulant doses. In addition, a single administration of lithium slightly inhibited midbrain raphe lesion-induced muricidal behaviour (25%); however, repeated treatment (5 days) significantly attenuated this behavioural deficit. Lithium treatment has also been shown to reverse behavioural and biochemical deficits induced by reserpine together with those induced by acute administration of single intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) dose of the Na, K-ATPase-inhibiting compound, ouabain. Long-term studies of lithium augmentation have not been performed, so that no clear recommendations for the duration of this therapy can be made. The points raised in this short review endorse the commencement of such studies.
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