1H MRS Study of Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex in Healthy Individuals before and after Lithium Administration
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The mechanism of action of lithium is still largely unknown. However, recent animal and human studies suggested the possible neuroprotective effects of this medication. In particular, a recent magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) study showed the increase of cortical brain levels of N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), a putative marker of neuronal integrity/functioning, in both bipolar patients and normal controls after 4 weeks of lithium administration. We investigated the effects of lithium on NAA levels in a sample of healthy individuals using in vivo 1H MRS in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a region likely implicated in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. In vivo short echo-time 1H-MRS measurements of 8 cm3 single voxels placed bilaterally in the DLPFC were conducted at baseline and after 4 weeks of lithium administration on 12 healthy individuals (mean age+/-SD = 25.0+/-9.8 years; six males). After lithium administration, no significant differences in NAA, phosphocreatine plus creatine, glycerophosphocholine plus phosphocholine (or choline-containing molecules), and myo-inositol absolute levels or ratios were found in DLPFC (paired t-tests, p > 0.05). Contrary to prior MRS reports in bipolar patients, we found that lithium administration did not significantly increase NAA levels in the DLPFC of healthy individuals. Future longitudinal studies will be needed to further investigate whether chronic lithium treatment increases NAA levels in other brain regions in healthy individuals, and whether it promotes changes in these levels in specific brain regions in bipolar patients.