The simple element lithium causes specific effect on early embryonic development. In amphibians, treatment during early cleavage enhances anterior and dorsal development at the expense of posterior and ventral development. Conversely, treatment at late cleavage reduces head development. While an effect of lithium on the phosphoinositide cycle was suspected, the enhancement of dorsoanterior development is now thought to result primarily from stimulation of the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway. The multiple uses of this pathway in development may account for lithium's various specific effects.