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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • diffusion tensor imaging;
  • functional imaging;
  • prefrontal cortex;
  • white matter

Objectives:  Prefrontal white matter has been hypothesized to be integral to the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. Recent morphometric studies however, have not observed changes in white matter in bipolar patients. We hypothesized that changes in prefrontal function in bipolar disorder, widely reported in the literature, may be related to a loss of white matter tract integrity with a resultant dysconnectivity syndrome. In this study we utilized diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine prefrontal white matter in patients with bipolar disorder.

Methods:  Nine patients with bipolar disorder and nine healthy controls were recruited. DTI and localizing anatomic data were acquired, and regions of interest (ROIs) identified in the prefrontal white matter at 15, 20, 25, and 30 mm superior to the anterior commissure (AC). Fractional anisotropy (FA) and trace apparent diffusion coefficient (TADC) were compared by ROI between study groups.

Results:  The FA of ROIs 25 and 30 mm above the AC was significantly reduced in patients with bipolar disorder; FA of all ROIs showed high-medium to large effect sizes. No significant group differences were identified in TADC.

Conclusions:  Our findings suggest that a loss of bundle coherence is present in prefrontal white matter. This loss of coherence may contribute to prefrontal cortical pathology in patients with bipolar disorder.