Neutrons show a connection between lithium concentration and
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Depressive disturbances are among the most frequent illnesses worldwide. The causes are complex and to date only partially understood. The trace element lithium appears to play a role. Using neutrons, a research team has now proved that the distribution of lithium in the brains of depressive people is different from the distribution found in healthy humans.

Mood disorder is the leading intrinsic risk factor for suicidal ideation. Questioning any potency of mood stabilizers, the monovalent cation lithium still holds the throne in medical psychiatric treatment. Furthermore, lithium`s anti-aggressive and suicide-preventive capacity in clinical practice is well established.

Researchers applied a new technique (neutron-induced coincidence method “NIK”) utilizing the 6Li(n,?)3H reaction for the position sensitive, 3D spatially resolved detection of lithium traces in post-mortem human brain tissue in suicide versus control.

NIK allowed, for the first time in lithium research, to collect a 3D high-resolution map of the regional trace lithium content in the non-lithium-medicated human brain.

The results show an anisotropic distribution of lithium, thus indicating a homeostatic regulation under physiological conditions as a remarkable link to essentiality. In contrast to suicide, they could empirically prove significantly higher endogenous lithium concentrations in white compared to the gray matter as a general trend in non-suicidal individuals and lower lithium concentrations in emotion-modulating regions in suicide.

Scientific Reports