The effects of lithium and anticonvulsants on brain structure in bipolar disorder

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2010 Dec;122(6):481-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2010.01582.x.


Objective: To investigate the effect of lithium, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics on brain structure in bipolar disorder (BD).

Method: A cross-sectional structural brain magnetic resonance imaging study of 74 remitted patients with BD, aged 18-65, who were receiving long-term prophylactic treatment with lithium or anticonvulsants or antipsychotics. Global and regional grey matter, white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid volumes were compared between treatment groups.

Results: Grey matter in the subgenual anterior cingulate gyrus on the right (extending into the hypothalamus) and in the postcentral gyrus, the hippocampus/amygdale complex and the insula on the left was greater in BD patients on lithium treatment compared to all other treatment groups.

Conclusion: Lithium treatment in BD has a significant effect on brain structure particularly in limbic/paralimbic regions associated with emotional processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Antimanic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lithium / pharmacology*
  • Lithium / therapeutic use
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antimanic Agents
  • Lithium