White matter abnormalities in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia detected using diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging


  • The authors of this paper do not have any commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript.

Dr. Jessika E. Sussmann, Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Kennedy Tower, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh EH10 5HF, UK. Fax: +44 131 537 6531; e-mail: jess.sussmann@ed.ac.uk


Objectives:  Strong qualitative and quantitative evidence exists of white matter abnormalities in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (BD). Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies suggest altered connectivity in both disorders. We aim to address the diagnostic specificity of white matter abnormalities in these disorders.

Methods:  DTI was used to assess white matter integrity in clinically stable patients with familial BD (n = 42) and familial schizophrenia (n = 28), and in controls (n = 38). Differences in fractional anisotropy (FA) were measured using voxel-based morphometry and automated region of interest analysis.

Results:  Reduced FA was found in the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC), anterior thalamic radiation (ATR), and in the region of the uncinate fasciculus in patients with BD and those with schizophrenia compared with controls. A direct comparison between patient groups found no significant differences in these regions. None of the findings were associated with psychotropic medication.

Conclusions:  Reduced integrity of the ALIC, uncinate fasciculus, and ATR regions is common to both schizophrenia and BD. These results imply an overlap in white matter pathology, possibly relating to risk factors common to both disorders.