Bipolar disorder is characterized by long-lasting episodes of mania during which mood is elevated and sufferers are restless. Behaviour is altered, leading to poor attention, impaired judgement, delusions and, in some cases, psychosis and increased risk of suicide. This mania may alternate with periods of major depression. The most commonly used treatment for bipolar disorder today is lithium, yet its mechanism of action is not known. Its effects on mania were reported by John Cade in 1949, a discovery that has often been described as serendipitous. But looking beyond Cade's experiments shows that there was more to it than just luck.

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