Prolonged hemodynamic response during incidental facial emotion processing in inter-episode bipolar I disorder

Ethan S. Rosenfeld, Godfrey D. Pearlson, John A. Sweeney, Carol A. Tamminga, Matcheri S. Keshavan, Camilla Nonterah, Michael C. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This fMRI study examined whether hemodynamic responses to affectively-salient stimuli were abnormally prolonged in remitted bipolar disorder, possibly representing a novel illness biomarker. A group of 18 DSM-IV bipolar I-diagnosed adults in remission and a demographically-matched control group performed an event-related fMRI gender-discrimination task in which face stimuli had task-irrelevant neutral, happy or angry expressions designed to elicit incidental emotional processing. Participants' brain activation was modeled using a "fully informed" SPM5 basis set. Mixed-model ANOVA tested for diagnostic group differences in BOLD response amplitude and shape within brain regions-of-interest selected from ALE meta-analysis of previous comparable fMRI studies. Bipolar-diagnosed patients had a generally longer duration and/or later-peaking hemodynamic response in amygdala and numerous prefrontal cortex brain regions. Data are consistent with existing models of bipolar limbic hyperactivity, but the prolonged frontolimbic response more precisely details abnormalities recognized in previous studies. Prolonged hemodynamic responses were unrelated to stimulus type, task performance, or degree of residual mood symptoms, suggesting an important novel trait vulnerability brain dysfunction in bipolar disorder. Bipolar patients also failed to engage pregenual cingulate and left orbitofrontal cortex-regions important to models of automatic emotion regulation-while engaging a delayed dorsolateral prefrontal cortex response not seen in controls. These results raise questions about whether there are meaningful relationships between bipolar dysfunction of specific ventromedial prefrontal cortex regions believed to automatically regulate emotional reactions and the prolonged responses in more lateral aspects of prefrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-86
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Bipolar
  • Emotion
  • Facial
  • Hemodynamic shape
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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