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3D 7Li magnetic resonance imaging of brain lithium distribution in bipolar disorder

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fiona Smith, Professor Peter Thelwall, Joe NecusORCiD, Carly Flowers, Professor Andrew BlamireORCiD, Dr David Cousins



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Lithium is a major treatment for bipolar disorder and the likelihood of a favourable response may be determined by its distribution in the brain. Lithium can be directly detected by magnetic resonance (MR), but previous 7Li MR spectroscopy studies have demonstrated that this is challenging compared to conventional 1H MR imaging due to the MR properties of the lithium nucleus and its low concentration in brain tissue, as dictated by therapeutic dose. We have tested and implemented a highly efficient balanced steady-state free precession 7Li-MRI method to address these challenges and enable MRI of brain lithium in a short duration scan. We report a 3D 7Li-MRI acquisition with 25 mm isotropic resolution in an 8-min scan that demonstrates heterogeneity in lithium concentration within the brain in subjects with bipolar disorder. This represents the direct imaging of a pharmaceutical agent in its target organ and notably expands the repertoire of techniques available to investigate the effects of lithium in man.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith FE, Thelwall PE, Necus J, Flowers CJ, Blamire AM, Cousins DA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Molecular Psychiatry

Year: 2018

Volume: 23

Issue: 11

Pages: 2184-2191

Print publication date: 01/11/2018

Online publication date: 09/02/2018

Acceptance date: 02/01/2018

Date deposited: 13/02/2018

ISSN (print): 1359-4184

ISSN (electronic): 1476-5578

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41380-018-0016-6


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