The possible mechanisms underlying the anti-manic actions of lithium have been examined in a variety of interdisciplinary experiments. The possibility that lithium can regulate the sensitivity changes in dopaminergic transmission produced by chronic treatment with haloperidol has been tested. Although a modest modification of behavioral responses to the dopamine agonist apomorphine was found, there was no evidence that this action of lithium reflected alterations of the binding parameters of dopamine-related ligands. In other studies, consistent, dose-dependent increases in brain enkephalin content were found after rats consumed a specially manufactured lithium diet for 2-3 weeks. Not only were brain enkephalin levels increased after this treatment, but some signs of basal analgesic responsiveness also suggested that the elevated levels of enkephalins were functionally significant. To test the possibility that the effects of lithium may not be seen in normal rats, the effects of lithium were compared on spontaneously hypertensive and unaffected, normotensive rats of a related strain. Treatment with lithium altered blood pressure in the hypertensive strain but did not affect blood pressure in the controls. These studies suggest that multiple brain systems may be regulated by treatment with lithium but that the critical pathophysiological process may not be demonstrable in the normal rat