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J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2008 Nov;33(6):531-40.

A comparison of affected and unaffected relatives of patients with bipolar disorder using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.

Erratum in

  • J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2009 Jan;34(1):40.



Bipolar disorders have a strong genetic underpinning. Little is known about biological predispositions that convey vulnerability for the illness. We searched for biological vulnerability markers using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in both affected and unaffected participants at high genetic risk for bipolar disorder.


We recruited high-risk participants aged 15-30 years from families in which multiple members were affected with bipolar disorder. Our primary sample included 14 affected and 15 unaffected relatives of probands with bipolar I disorder. Our extended sample comprised 19 affected and 21 unaffected participants with a family history of either bipolar I or bipolar II disorders. We matched both samples by age and sex with 31 control participants without a personal or family history of psychiatric disorders. We performed single voxel proton MRS at 1.5 T in bilateral dorsal and ventral medial prefrontal cortices with correction for grey matter proportion.


We found comparable levels of choline, creatine, myo-inositol and N-acetylaspartate among the groups in both samples. There were no differences between regions of the medial prefrontal cortex or between hemispheres for any of the metabolites in any of the samples. The exclusion of 5 participants taking medication did not change our results.


Neurochemical changes in the medial prefrontal cortex that are measurable using proton MRS do not appear to be antecedent to the onset of mood disorders in genetically susceptible individuals.


bipolar disorders; magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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