Lithium and cognitive enhancement: leave it or take it?
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- Tsaltas, E., Kontis, D., Boulougouris, V. et al. Psychopharmacology (2009) 202: 457. doi:10.1007/s00213-008-1311-8
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Lithium is established as an effective treatment of acute mania, bipolar and unipolar depression and as prophylaxis against bipolar disorder. Accumulating evidence is also delineating a neuroprotective and neurotrophic role for lithium. However, its primary effects on cognitive functioning remain ambiguous.
The aim of this paper is to review and combine the relevant translational studies, focusing on the putative cognitive enhancement properties of lithium, specifically on learning, memory, and attention.
These properties are also discussed in reference to research demonstrating a protective action of lithium against cognitive deficits induced by various challenges to the nervous system, such as stress, trauma, neurodegenerative disorders, and psychiatric disorders.
It is suggested on the basis of the evidence that the cognitive effects of lithium are best expressed and should, therefore, be sought under conditions of functional or biological challenge to the nervous system.