Tract-specific white matter structural disruption in patients with bipolar disorder

Francesco Benedetti, Martina Absinta, Maria A. Rocca, Daniele Radaelli, Sara Poletti, Alessandro Bernasconi, Sara Dallaspezia, Elisabetta Pagani, Andrea Falini, Massimiliano Copetti, Cristina Colombo, Giancarlo Comi, Enrico Smeraldi, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Objectives: A growing body of evidence suggests that, independent of localized brain lesions, mood disorders can be associated with dysfunction of brain networks involved in the modulation of emotional and cognitive behavior. We used diffusion tensor (DT) tractography to quantify the presence and extent of structural injury to the connections between the amygdala and other brain regions, which included the subgenual, the supragenual and posterior cingulate, the parahippocampal, the orbitofrontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, as well as the insula. Methods: Using a 3.0 Tesla scanner, conventional and DT magnetic resonance imaging sequences of the brain were acquired from 15 adult patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), 15 with bipolar disorder (BD), and 21 age-matched healthy controls. Using FSL software, diffusivity changes of the white matter (WM) fiber bundles belonging to the emotional network were measured. Results: Compared to controls and MDD patients, BD patients had significantly decreased average fractional anisotropy, increased average mean diffusivity, and increased average axial and radial diffusivity values in the majority of the WM fiber bundles connecting structures of the anterior limbic network (p-values ranging from 0.002 to 0.040). Medication load did not influence the results with the exception of lithium, which was associated with normal diffusivity values in tracts connecting the amygdala with the subgenual cingulate cortex. Conclusions: We detected specific WM abnormalities, suggestive of disrupted integrity of fiber bundles in the brains of patients with BD. These abnormalities might contribute to understanding both mood dysregulation and cognitive disturbances in BD, and might provide an objective marker to monitor treatment efficacy in this condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-424
Number of pages11
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cingulate
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • Major depression
  • Tractography
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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