Reduced white matter microstructure in bipolar disorder with and without psychosis

Jennifer A. Brown, Brooke S. Jackson, Courtney R. Burton, Jennifer E. Hoy, John A. Sweeney, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Matcheri S. Keshavan, Sarah S. Keedy, Elliot S. Gershon, Carol A. Tamminga, Brett A. Clementz, Jennifer E. McDowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: Affective and psychotic features overlap considerably in bipolar I disorder, complicating efforts to determine its etiology and develop targeted treatments. In order to clarify whether mechanisms are similar or divergent for bipolar disorder with psychosis (BDP) and bipolar disorder with no psychosis (BDNP), neurobiological profiles for both the groups must first be established. This study examines white matter structure in the BDP and BDNP groups, in an effort to identify portions of white matter that may differ between the bipolar and healthy groups or between the bipolar subgroups themselves. Methods: Diffusion-weighted imaging data were acquired from participants with BDP (n = 45), BDNP (n = 40), and healthy comparisons (HC) (n = 66). Fractional anisotropy (FA), radial diffusivity (RD), and spin distribution function (SDF) values indexing white matter diffusivity or spin density were calculated and compared between the groups. Results: In comparisons between both the bipolar groups and HC, FA (FDR < 0.00001) and RD (FDR = 0.0037) differed minimally, in localized portions of the left cingulum and corpus callosum, while reductions in SDF (FDR = 0.0002) were more widespread. The bipolar subgroups did not differ from each other on FA, RD, or SDF metrics. Conclusions: Together, these results demonstrate a novel profile of white matter differences in bipolar disorder and suggest that this white matter pathology is associated with the affective disturbance common to those with bipolar disorder rather than the psychotic features unique to some. The white matter alterations identified in this study may provide substrates for future studies examining specific mechanisms that target affective domains of illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-809
Number of pages9
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • bipolar disorder
  • diffusion-weighted MRI
  • psychosis
  • white matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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