Calcium: bivalent cation in the bivalent psychoses

Biol Psychiatry. 1979 Apr;14(2):295-336.


Decreases in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) calcium accompany mood elevation and motor activation in depressed patients undergoing treatment with ECT, lithium, and total sleep deprivation. Similarly, decreases in CSF calcium occur during acute psychotic agitation or mania. On the other hand, periodic recurrences of such agitated states are accompanied at their onset by transient increases in serum calcium and phosphorus. Several observations suggest that such serum ion shifts may trigger the more enduring and opposite shifts in CSF calcium and, in turn, the manic behavior. Progressive restriction of dietary calcium was earlier reported to mitigate and finally abolish both rhythmic rises in serum calcium and periodic agitated episodes in one psychotic patient. Lithium, which decreases the efficiency of alimentary calcium absorption, may function similarly. Conversely, a modest oral calcium lactate supplement (approximately one additional Recommended Daily Allowance of dietary calcium) seemed to slightly intensify agitation in six patients. Dihydrotachysterol (DHT), an analogue of vitamin D, which more exactly mimics the increase in both serum calcium and phosphorus, appeared in at least one periodically psychotic patient to trigger and opposite shift in CSF calcium. Moreover, in eight patients, manic symptomatology appeared de novo or grew significantly and substantially worse during 2 to 6 weeks of oral DHT administration. On the other hand, in 12 patients, subcutaneous injections of synthetic salmon calcitonin (SCT) decreased serum calcium and phosphorus, increased CSF calcium, and decreased agitation while augmenting depressive symptomatology. SCT also decreased quantified motor activity, frequency and severity of periodic agitated episodes, serum CPK and prolactin, and nocturnal sleep, while DHT or calcium lactate had opposite effects on the same parameters.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder / enzymology*
  • Calcitonin / pharmacology
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Creatine Kinase / metabolism
  • Dihydrotachysterol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lithium / therapeutic use
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Schizophrenia / enzymology


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcitonin
  • Lithium
  • Creatine Kinase
  • Magnesium
  • Dihydrotachysterol
  • Calcium