Clinical and preclinical evidence for the neurotrophic effects of mood stabilizers: implications for the pathophysiology and treatment of manic-depressive illness
Manji HK, Moore GJ, Chen G.
Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology,
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences
and Cellular and Clinical Neurobiology Program,
Wayne State University School of Medicine,
Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Oct 15; 48(8): 740-54


Recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated regional central nervous system volume reductions in mood disorders, findings that are complemented by postmortem observations of cell atrophy and loss. It is thus noteworthy that lithium and valproate have recently been demonstrated to robustly increase the expression of the cytoprotective protein bcl-2 in the central nervous system. Chronic lithium not only exerts neuroprotective effects in several preclinical paradigms but also enhances hippocampal neurogenesis. Valproate robustly promotes neurite outgrowth and activates the ERK mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, a signaling pathway utilized by many endogenous neurotrophic factors. Consistent with its preclinical neurotrophic/neuroprotective effects, chronic lithium treatment of patients with manic-depressive illness increases brain N-acetylaspartate (a putative marker of neuronal viability and function) levels, an effect that is localized almost exclusively to gray matter. To determine if lithium was producing neuropil increases, quantitative three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging studies were undertaken, which revealed that chronic lithium significantly increases total gray matter volume in the human brain of patients with manic-depressive illness. Together, these results suggest that a reconceptualization about the optimal long-term treatment of recurrent mood disorders is warranted. Optimal long-term treatment for these severe illnesses may only be achieved by the early use of agents with neurotrophic/neuroprotective effects, irrespective of the primary, symptomatic treatment.
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