Diagnosis and body mass index effects on hippocampal volumes and neurochemistry in bipolar disorder

D. J. Bond, L. E. Silveira, E. L. MacMillan, I. J. Torres, D. J. Lang, W. Su, W. G. Honer, R. W. Lam, L. N. Yatham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We previously reported that higher body mass index (BMI) was associated with greater hippocampal glutamate+glutamine in people with bipolar disorder (BD), but not in non-BD healthy comparator subjects (HSs). In the current report, we extend these findings by examining the impact of BD diagnosis and BMI on hippocampal volumes and the concentrations of several additional neurochemicals in 57 early-stage BD patients and 31 HSs. Using 3-T magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we measured bilateral hippocampal volumes and the hippocampal concentrations of four neurochemicals relevant to BD: N-acetylaspartate+N-acteylaspartylglutamate (tNAA), creatine+phosphocreatine (Cre), myoinositol (Ins) and glycerophosphocholine+phosphatidylcholine (Cho). We used multivariate factorial analysis of covariance to investigate the impact of diagnosis (patient vs HS) and BMI category (normal weight vs overweight/obese) on these variables. We found a main effect of diagnosis on hippocampal volumes, with patients having smaller hippocampi than HSs. There was no association between BMI and hippocampal volumes. We found diagnosis and BMI effects on hippocampal neurochemistry, with patients having lower Cre, Ins and Cho, and overweight/obese subjects having higher levels of these chemicals. In patient-only models that controlled for clinical and treatment variables, we detected an additional association between higher BMI and lower tNAA that was absent in HSs. To our knowledge, this was the first study to investigate the relative contributions of BD diagnosis and BMI to hippocampal volumes, and only the second to investigate their contributions to hippocampal chemistry. It provides further evidence that diagnosis and elevated BMI both impact limbic brain areas relevant to BD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1071
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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