Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a debilitating condition characterized by alternating mania and depression and is thought to affect about one in a hundred people worldwide. Although it is known that the condition can be treated relatively effectively using the mood stabilizing drugs lithium and valproic acid the reasons why these treatments work are poorly understood. A post-mortem study of the brains of people with bipolar disorder looked at the concentrations of chemicals in a region of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which controls the processes involved in higher cognitive functioning. The researchers found higher concentrations of the chemicals glutamate, creatine and myo-inositol in the brains of bipolar patients than in a control group of brains of people without the condition. But there was less of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brains of the bipolar sufferes. Animal experiments showed that lithium and valproic acid were able to revers these chemical changes.
You can find out more about this research at