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Pharmacol Ther. 1992;56(1):53-78.

Rhythms and the pharmacology of lithium.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego.


Lithium is the treatment of choice for bipolar affective disorder (manic-depression) and is useful in other recurrent affective and nonaffective illnesses. This review discusses lithium's actions on period, phase, amplitude and coupling of biological rhythms that may relate to its therapeutic effectiveness. Alternatively, lithium might interact with environmental light to influence circadian rhythms by an action on the retina. The mechanisms responsible for lithium's chronopharmacological actions are not known, but cellular cations, phosphoinositide or adenylate cyclase second messenger systems, hormones and neurotransmitters may all be involved.

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