The impact of psychosis on brain anatomy in bipolar disorder: A structural MRI study.

J Affect Disord 2018 06 29;233:100-109. Epub 2017 Nov 29.

Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health, IRCCS Fondazione Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, University of Milan, Milan, Italy; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, McGovern Medical School, Houston, TX, USA. Electronic address:

Background: Bipolar disorder (BD) is a major psychiatric illness characterized by heterogeneous symptoms including psychotic features. Up until now, neuroimaging studies investigating cerebral morphology in patients with BD have underestimated the potential impact of psychosis on brain anatomy in BD patients. In this regard, psychotic and non-psychotic BD may represent biologically different subtypes of the disorder, being possibly associated with specific cerebral features.

Methods: In the present study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 3T was used to identify the neuroanatomical correlates of psychosis in an International sample of BD patients. A large sample of structural MRI data from healthy subjects (HC) and BD patients was collected across two research centers. Voxel based morphometry was used to compare gray matter (GM) volume among psychotic and non-psychotic BD patients and HC.

Results: We found specific structural alterations in the two patient groups, more extended in the psychotic sample. Psychotic patients showed GM volume deficits in left frontal cortex compared to HC, and in right temporo-parietal cortex compared to both HC and non-psychotic patients (p < 0.001, > 100 voxels). Psychotic patients also exhibited enhanced age-related GM volume deficits in a set of subcortical and cortical regions.

Limitations: The integration of multiple datasets may have affected the results.

Conclusions: Overall, our results confirm the importance of classifying BD based on psychosis. The knowledge of the neuronal bases of psychotic symptomatology in BD can provide a more comprehensive picture of the determinants of BD, in the light of the continuum characteristic of major psychoses.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.11.092DOI Listing
June 2018

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