Abnormal diffusion parameters are reported in specific brain regions and white matter tracts in bipolar disorder.
To investigate whether these abnormalities are generalised, and thus evident in large regions of white matter.
Diffusion parameters were measured at several regions in the corpus callosum and in deep/periventricular white matter in 28 currently euthymic patients with bipolar disorder and controls. White matter hyperintensity loads were assessed.
Comparing the whole data-sets using the sign test, in the group with bipolar disorder, mean diffusivity was greater at all 15 sites (P<0.001) and fractional anisotropy was reduced at 13 (P<0.01). The effect of diagnosis was significant for callosal mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy and for deep/periventricular mean diffusivity (MANCOVA). Comparing individual regions (Mann-Whitney U-test), prefrontal and periventricular mean diffusivity were significantly increased; callosal and occipital fractional anisotropy were significantly reduced. Former substance use and lithium were possible confounding factors. Periventricular white matter hyperintensities were associated with significantly increased periventricular mean diffusivity in individuals with bipolar disorder. Conclusions Generalised white matter microstructural abnormalities may exist in bipolar disorder, possibly exacerbated by past substance use and ameliorated by lithium.