, Volume 231, Issue 2, pp 327–332 | Cite as

Cortical glutathione levels in young people with bipolar disorder: a pilot study using magnetic resonance spectroscopy

  • Beata R. Godlewska
  • Sarah W. Yip
  • Jamie Near
  • Guy M. Goodwin
  • Philip J. Cowen
Original Investigation



Glutathione (GSH) is a key scavenger for cellular free radicals, and patients with bipolar disorder may have lowered GSH levels in plasma and in post-mortem brain tissue.


The objective of the current study was to use magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to measure cortical GSH levels in young people with bipolar disorder to determine if lowered GSH might be a useful biomarker of vulnerability to the illness.


We studied 13 patients with DSM-IV bipolar disorder and 11 healthy age-matched controls using proton MRS in conjunction with the SPECIAL acquisition technique. Voxels were placed in prefrontal and occipital cortex. All patients were clinically euthymic at the time of study and unmedicated. GSH and other relevant neurometabolites were measured relative to creatinine.


There was no difference in GSH levels between bipolar participants and controls in either prefrontal or occipital cortex. Similarly, participants showed no difference from controls in other measured cortical metabolites including γ-aminobutyric acid, glutamate and N-acetylaspartate.


This pilot study suggests that levels of cortical GSH are unlikely to be a useful trait biomarker of bipolar disorder in young people with a history of relatively mild mood instability at an early stage of illness. Lowered GSH levels may be relevant to bipolar pathophysiology in more severely ill patients, particular those with significant current mood disturbance.


Bipolar disorder Oxidative stress Glutathione Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) 


Conflicts of interest

This study was funded by the Medical Research Council. Philip J. Cowen has been a paid advisor of Lundbeck and Servier and has been a paid lecturer for Lundbeck, Servier and Glaxo Smith Kline. Guy M. Goodwin has held grants from Servier, received honoraria for speaking or chairing educational meeting from AstraZeneca, BMS, Eisai, Lundbeck, Servier and advised AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, BMS, Cephalon/Teva Janssen Cilag, Lilly, Lundbeck, Otsuka, P1Vital, Servier, Shire, Takeda and Pfizer. He holds shares in P1vital and acted as expert witness for Lilly. Beata R. Godlewska, Sarah W. Yip and Jamie Near have no conflict of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beata R. Godlewska
    • 1
  • Sarah W. Yip
    • 1
  • Jamie Near
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guy M. Goodwin
    • 1
  • Philip J. Cowen
    • 1
  1. 1.University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford HospitalOxfordUK
  2. 2.FMRIB Centre, Department of Clinical NeurologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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