Lithium remains the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder and also has important effects to lower suicidal behaviour, a property that may be linked to its ability to diminish impulsive, aggressive behaviour. The antioxidant drug, ebselen, has been proposed as a possible lithium-mimetic based on its ability in animals to inhibit inositol monophosphatase (IMPase), an action which it shares with lithium.The aim of the study was to determine whether treatment with ebselen altered emotional processing and diminished measures of risk-taking behaviour.We studied 20 healthy participants who were tested on two occasions receiving either ebselen (3600 mg over 24 h) or identical placebo in a double-blind, randomized, cross-over design. Three hours after the final dose of ebselen/placebo, participants completed the Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT) and a task that required the detection of emotional facial expressions (facial emotion recognition task (FERT)).On the CGT, relative to placebo, ebselen reduced delay aversion while on the FERT, it increased the recognition of positive vs negative facial expressions.The study suggests that at the dosage used, ebselen can decrease impulsivity and produce a positive bias in emotional processing. These findings have implications for the possible use of ebselen in the disorders characterized by impulsive behaviour and dysphoric mood.
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Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7JX, UK.