Many people with bipolar disorder do well with lithium and decide to take it in the long term, finding that it reduces the risk of relapse. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone – some notice only a slight benefit, others none at all. We are trying to find out if there are differences between responders and non-responders so that in the future, psychiatrists will have a better idea who should be offered lithium; patients will be able to make more informed choices. This is such an important topic that the Medical Research Council have invested over £1M in our study.
We are looking for people who fall into the following groups:
If you take part, no change to your treatment would be made. You'd be asked to complete some IQ tests and have a magnetic resonance scan – we'll be using the most advanced techniques and you'd be helping us to develop some new ones along the way.
If you're interested in taking part or have any questions, please get in touch.
Team Lithium are pleased to announce their involvement in a major new project which aims to identify early predictors of a good response to lithium in individuals with Bipolar Disorder. This EU funding represents the largest single investment in lithium-related research and will link bring together at least 15 centres in Europe.
The Response to Li Network (R-LiNK) proposes the detailed assessment of people before and after lithium treatment is initiated, to better understand early biomarkers of response. Response will be measured over a two year follow-up period and will likely lead to us being able to help people make an informed choice about starting lithium based on their likelihood of response. This study will link a multidisciplinary international network of experts, who will pool resources and skills to ensure that the most cutting edge technologies are being developed and used.
People with Bipolar Disorder are eligible to join the study if their usual care team has suggested that they start lithium – the study simply adds to that by doing a more in depth assessment and follow up. Assessments include blood tests, brain scans and charting of mood with smartphones and activity trackers. More specifically, the blood tests include cutting edge assessments with measures of blood “omics” (genes, mRNA, proteins and metabolites) whilst advanced structural brain imaging scans will be performed.
This project will also aim to develop a home-based device for measuring salivary lithium (to improve monitoring without frequent blood tests) and an interactive package that allows self-rating of mental state. It is hoped that these developments will aid adherence, while also contributing to cost-effective, individualised care.
Team Lithium have a major role in the project, leading on the set up of lithium imaging in key centres. Having developed the ability to chart the distribution of lithium in the brain, this project will permit other centres to conduct cutting edge research with the goal of better predicting response to lithium, and of course studies seeking to understand its mode of action.
This study is currently in its preliminary stages, but we will keep you updated with any developments from this exciting collaboration!
We have recently received £10,000 from the Reece Foundation to conduct a study exploring the uptake of lithium in the brains of healthy participants. BLISS has already shown that the uptake of lithium in the brain is uneven but we do not know if that is a feature of lithium itself, or whether having Bipolar Disorder contributes to the pattern of uptake. LiMRIC will explore the uptake and distribution of lithium over a short period of treatment, without illness or other medications as a variable. This study will provide insights into the action of lithium on the brain, contributing to our goal of predicting whether an individual will respond well to lithium, without having to undergo several months of treatment first.
LiMRIC will also systematically assess the scan-rescan reliability of our novel lithium magnetic resonance imaging technique. To date, we have been performing scans on a single occasion. As we enter into studies where patients are followed up over time, we need to be certain that our results are reliable from one scan to the next.
This study is currently in its early stages, but we will keep you updated with any new developments!