The scientific work by Friedlich demonstrating neocortical levels of lithium are increased in bipolar disorders raises a number of questions.
First, it establishes that Lithium is present in brain tissue as a physiological trace element and from other work an essential element in human nutrition. This and other observations firmly establishes Lithium as essential and of major importance in neurological function.
This astounding and confusing feature that was found by the work of Friedlich et al that the cortical levels of Lithium are significantly elevated by a factor of two in the cortex of bipolar patients when compared to normal cerebral tissue in controlled patients. Considerable care was taken that the bipolar patients had not been on Lithium treatment.
The real puzzle is finding significantly higher lithium in the cortex of patients with a predisposition of manic depression when the major treatment is to give lithium and thus raise the cerebral level for the treatment of manic depression.
A number of theories have been proposed but these are really not compatible with past problems noted in the body with other elements. One idea proposed is that in patients with bipolar disorder there is a deficiency in “lithium transport pathways” and thus one obtains an excess of lithium. This jars against normal physiological process but certainly warrants possible investigation into lithium pathways or abnormalities in inter-cerebral pathways and any differences between manic depressives and normal patients.
It is a real question why one finds an accumulation of lithium in brains which would possibly respond to therapeutic doses of lithium for treatment.
It is interesting to note that “Happy water” is for sale in Canada which contains a miniscule amount of Lithium.
Reference: Friedlich. Neocortical levels of lithium are increased in bipolar disorder. Molecular Psychiatry 2012 17:3-4