While the anticonvulsant and antinociceptive effects of carbamazepine appear acutely, more chronic administration is required for maximum onset of antimanic and antidepressant efficacy. These data suggest that different mechanisms of action may be associated with anticonvulsant, antinociceptive, and psychotropic effects of this drug. Carbamazepine exerts important anticonvulsant actions via peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors. In addition, unblocked alpha2 receptors appear to be required. Antinociceptive but not anticonvulsant effects of carbamazepine have been postulated to involve GABA-B mechanisms. Therefore, we undertook a clinical trial of L-baclofen in affectively ill patients, in order to discern whether the psychotropic effects may be associated with this process as well. Initial data suggest that L-baclofen is not only ineffective in the treatment of affective illness, but may exacerbate depression during treatment. These data suggest the potential utility of exploring GABA-B antagonist strategies in the treatment of refractory bipolar illness. Dr. S.R.B. Weiss has developed an animal model that requires chronic administration in order to demonstrate anticonvulsant efficacy. Thus, the ability of chronic, but not acute or repeated intermittent, carbamazepine to block the development of cocaine- and lidocaine-induced kindling, may provide a series of important leads to possible mechanisms of the psychotropic effects of carbamazepine (which also require chronic administration). Based on these studies, we have found that alpha2 noradrenergic mechanisms are not required and a role for corticotropin releasing factor has not been definitively identified. A variety of candidate systems remain to be explored including carbamazepine's ability to up regulate adenosine receptors, as well as its effects on somatostatin and other neurotransmitter and neuropeptide systems. It is hoped that once the mechanism of action of carbamazepine is elucidated, it might lead to the development of newer, more selective treatment agents for the refractory affective illnesses.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Intramural Research (Z01)
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U.S. National Institute of Mental Health
United States
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