Lithium is an effective drug for both the treatment and prophylaxis of bipolar disorder. However, the precise mechanism of lithium action is not yet well understood. Extensive research aiming to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of lithium has revealed several possible targets. The behavioral and physiological manifestations of the illness are complex and are mediated by a network of interconnected neurotransmitter pathways. Thus, lithium's ability to modulate the release of serotonin at presynaptic sites and modulate receptor-mediated supersensitivity in the brain remains a relevant line of investigation. However, it is at the molecular level that some of the most exciting advances in the understanding of the long-term therapeutic action of lithium will continue in the coming years. The lithium cation possesses the selective ability, at clinically relevant concentrations, to alter the PI second-messenger system, potentially altering the activity and dynamic regulation of receptors that are coupled to this intracellular response. Subtypes of muscarinic receptors in the limbic system may represent particularly sensitive targets in this regard. Likewise, preclinical data have shown that lithium regulates arachidonic acid and the protein kinase C signaling cascades. It also indirectly regulates a number of factors involved in cell survival pathways, including cAMP response element binding protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, bcl-2 and mitogen-activated protein kinases, and may thus bring about delayed long-term beneficial effects via under-appreciated neurotrophic effects. Identification of the molecular targets for lithium in the brain could lead to the elucidation of the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder and the discovery of a new generation of mood stabilizers, which in turn may lead to improvements in the long-term outcome of this devastating illness (1).