MEG auditory evoked fields suggest altered structural/functional asymmetry in primary but not secondary auditory cortex in bipolar disorder


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

Corresponding author:
Martin Reite, M.D.
Neuromagnetic Imaging Laboratory
Department of Psychiatry
University of Colorado, Denver
13001 East 17th Place
P.O. Box 6508, Mail Stop F546
Aurora, CO 80045, USA
Fax: 303-724-3836


Objectives:  Objective physiological indices independently characterizing affective and schizophreniform psychoses would contribute to our understanding of the nature of their relationships. Magnetoencephalography (MEG)-based metrics of altered structural/functional asymmetry in the superior temporal gyrus have previously been found to characterize schizophrenia at the level of both the primary auditory (AI) and the secondary auditory (AII) cortex. This study examines these markers in patients with bipolar disorder, with the goal of improved understanding of the patterns of brain asymmetry that may independently characterize affective and schizophreniform psychosis.

Methods:  We studied 17 euthymic bipolar subjects and 17 matched controls. Auditory evoked fields were generated by both 40 Hz auditory stimuli eliciting steady state gamma band (SSR), activating the AI cortex, and discrete 1 kHz tone pips, activating the AII cortex. MEG was recorded from the hemisphere contralateral to the ear stimulated using a 37-channel MEG system. Source location estimates were calculated in both left and right hemispheres. Neuroanatomical location estimates for medial Heschl’s gyri were determined from magnetic resonance images for correlation with MEG source locations.

Results:  Bipolar subjects failed to demonstrate normal laterality of SSR AI responses, indicating altered patterns of asymmetry at the level of AI cortex, but demonstrated normal asymmetry of AII responses (right anterior to left). Medial Heschl’s gyri centroids were similarly lateralized in both groups, however (right anterior to left), dissociating function from structure in the AI cortex in the bipolar group.

Conclusions:  The findings are compatible with altered functional/structural relationships, including diminished left-right hemisphere asymmetry of the AI, but not the AII cortex in bipolar disorder. In schizophrenia, both the AI and AII cortices exhibit such derangements; thus, the findings support both shared and nonshared features of auditory cortical disruption between the two disorders. This functional disorganization may help explain previously reported decreases in amplitude and phase synchrony of SSR gamma band responses in bipolar subjects, suggesting impaired neocortical synchrony in AI, possibly at a cortico-thalamic level, but perhaps not extending to heteromodal association cortex, and may relate to the cognitive impairments found in bipolar disorder.