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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2010 May;117(5):639-54. doi: 10.1007/s00702-010-0368-9. Epub 2010 Jan 27.

White matter abnormalities in bipolar disorder: insights from diffusion tensor imaging studies.

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Institute of Mental Health, Woodbridge Hospital, 10 Buangkok View, Singapore.


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a neuroimaging technique with the potential to elucidate white matter abnormalities. Recently, it has been applied to help in better understanding of the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder (BD). This review sought to synthesise existing literature on DTI studies in BD, summarise current findings and highlight brain regions that have consistently been implicated in BD, as well as posit possible future directions for DTI research in BD. The extant findings from this review suggest loss of white matter network connectivity as a possible phenomenon associated with bipolar disorder, involving prefrontal and frontal regions, projection, associative and commissural fibres, with sparse and less consistent evidence implicating the subcortical and non-frontal lobes of the brain. There are some differences in the direction of changes observed in white matter indices, and these may be attributed to factors including sample heterogeneity and limitations of DTI techniques. The possible roles of the parietal, temporal and occipital lobes and subcortical regions in BD await further investigation. Studies of bipolar disorder using DTI lag behind other neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia, but DTI research in BD is fast gaining pace. The emerging trends from these DTI findings underscore the importance of further research to unravel the underlying neural mechanisms and clinico-anatomical correlations involving white matter in BD.

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