Todd Gould, M.D., received an AFSP Grant to study what may cause lithium have properties that reduce risk for suicide. Lithium is the only medication that has consistently been found to reduce the rate of suicidal behavior but it has many side effects. In order to study medications, scientists use mice to model human behavior when they cannot study human brains directly. They can do this because the brain chemicals and many brain circuits in mice are similar to those in humans. Since mice do not die by suicide, Dr. Gould studied the effects of lithium on aggressive and impulsive behavior. He chose these behaviors because they often increase the risk of acting upon suicidal behavior in humans. By using genetic and pharmacological approaches he was able to demonstrate that lithium reduced aggressive behavior however, the relationship between lithium and behavior is not straight forward and depends on baseline behavior prior to lithium administration. The AFSP grant was used to generate enough information to receive funds from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to study this further. Dr. Gould hopes that his studies of the effects of lithium in mice will one day translate into the development of medications that will safely reduce the risk for suicide in people at risk. NIMH seems to agree.
Todd Gould, M.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology, and Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, MD. Click here to read more about Dr. Gould's Standard Research Grant.