It has been suggested that lithium increases choline concentrations, although previous human studies examining this possibility using 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) have had mixed results: some found increases while most found no differences.
The present study utilized 1H MRS, in a 3 T scanner to examine the effects of both lithium and sodium valproate upon choline concentrations in treated euthymic bipolar patients utilizing two different methodologies. In the first part of the study healthy controls (n = 18) were compared with euthymic Bipolar Disorder patients (Type I and Type II) who were taking either lithium (n = 14) or sodium valproate (n = 11), and temporal lobe choline/creatine (Cho/Cr) ratios were determined. In the second part we examined a separate group of euthymic Bipolar Disorder Type I patients taking sodium valproate (n = 9) and compared these to controls (n = 11). Here we measured the absolute concentrations of choline in both temporal and frontal lobes.
The results from the first part of the study showed that bipolar patients chronically treated with both lithium and sodium valproate had significantly reduced temporal lobe Cho/Cr ratios. In contrast, in the second part of the study, there were no effects of sodium valproate on either absolute choline concentrations or on Cho/Cr ratios in either temporal or frontal lobes.
These findings suggest that measuring Cho/Cr ratios may not accurately reflect brain choline concentrations. In addition, the results do not support previous suggestions that either lithium or valproate increases choline concentrations in bipolar patients.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder, lithium, sodium valproate, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, choline