Psychology & Psychiatry

Lithium in drinking water linked with lower suicide rates

Naturally occurring lithium in public drinking water may have an anti-suicidal effect—according to a new study from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at ...

Alzheimer's disease & dementia

Can lithium halt progression of Alzheimer's disease?

There remains a controversy in scientific circles today regarding the value of lithium therapy in treating Alzheimer's disease. Much of this stems from the fact that because the information gathered to date has been obtained ...

Oncology & Cancer

Lithium can reverse radiation damage after brain tumor treatment

Children who have received radiotherapy for a brain tumor can develop cognitive problems later in life. In their studies on mice, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now shown that the drug lithium can help to reverse ...

Medical research

Lithium boosts muscle strength in mice with rare muscular dystrophy

Standing up from a chair, climbing stairs, brushing one's hair – all can be a struggle for people with a rare form of muscular dystrophy that causes progressive weakness in the shoulders and hips. Over time, many such people ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

Underlying molecular mechanism of bipolar disorder revealed

An international collaborative study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), with major participation from Yokohama School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and UC San Diego, has ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

New clue to how lithium works in the brain

Since the 1970s, U.S. doctors have prescribed lithium to treat patients with bipolar disorder. While the drug has a good success rate, scientists are still unsure exactly how it achieves its beneficial effects.

Medical research

Fruit flies live longer on lithium

Fruit flies live 16% longer than average when given low doses of the mood stabiliser lithium, according to a UCL-led study.

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Lithium

Lithium (pronounced /ˈlɪθiəm/) is the chemical element with atomic number 3, and is represented by the symbol Li. It is a soft alkali metal with a silver-white color. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals lithium is highly reactive, corroding quickly in moist air to form a black tarnish. For this reason lithium metal is typically stored under the cover of oil. When cut open lithium exhibits a metallic luster, but contact with oxygen quickly turns it back to a dull silvery gray color. Lithium in its elemental state is highly flammable.

According to theory, lithium was one of the few elements synthesized in the Big Bang. Since its current estimated abundance in the universe is vastly less than that predicted by theory; the processes by which new lithium is created and destroyed, and the true value of its abundance, continue to be active matters of study in astronomy. The nuclei of lithium are relatively fragile: the two stable lithium isotopes found in nature have lower binding energies per nucleon than any other stable compound nuclides, save for the exotic and rare deuterium, and 3He. Though very light in atomic weight, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements.

Due to its high reactivity it only appears naturally in the form of compounds. Lithium occurs in a number of pegmatitic minerals, but is also commonly obtained from brines and clays. On a commercial scale, lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.

Trace amounts of lithium are present in the oceans and in some organisms, though the element serves no apparent vital biological function in humans. However, the lithium ion Li+ administered as any of several lithium salts has proved to be useful as a mood stabilizing drug due to neurological effects of the ion in the human body. Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys used in aircraft, and lithium batteries. Lithium also has important links to nuclear physics. The transmutation of lithium atoms to tritium was the first man-made form of a nuclear fusion reaction, and lithium deuteride serves as a fusion fuel in staged thermonuclear weapons.

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