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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • diffusion tensor imaging;
  • schizophrenia;
  • white matter

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.