Is lithium a neuroprotective agent?

BACKGROUND: Lithium was the first clinically effective mood stabilizer marketed worldwide. However, the medical literature suggests that lithium may have an indication as a neuroprotective agent.

METHODS: This review discusses the pharmacologic activity and potential effectiveness of lithium in the context of Alzheimer disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD), the 2 most prominent neurodegenerative disorders in the United States. The toxicities of lithium, including lithiuminduced extrapyramidal symptoms (LI-EPS) and cognitive impairments at therapeutic blood levels, are discussed. Cases that are thought to illustrate LI-EPS and cognitive impairments are critiqued.

RESULTS: Animal studies have shown positive results regarding the neuroprotective and antioxidant properties of lithium. Human studies indicate a potential benefit of lithium for improving cognition. Ongoing replicative studies are attempting to confirm the effectiveness and efficacy of lithium for treating patients diagnosed with AD or PD.

CONCLUSIONS: The available medical literature supports the conclusion that lithium should be considered as a research candidate medication for the treatment of neurologic diseases of dementias and PD.

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