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Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jun 1;67(11):1097-105. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.01.020. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

Voxelwise meta-analysis of gray matter abnormalities in bipolar disorder.

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  • 1Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



We conducted a meta-analysis of gray matter abnormalities in bipolar disorder (BD) using voxel-based morphometry studies to help clarify the structural abnormalities underpinning this condition.


A systematic review was conducted for voxel-based morphometry studies of patients with BD. Meta-analyses of gray matter differences between BD and control subjects were undertaken using "signed differential mapping," a novel method that, in contrast to previously used techniques, allows inclusion of negative findings and ensures that single studies do not exert undue influence on the results. Meta-regression and subgroup analyses were used to examine the effect of moderator variables on gray matter abnormalities.


A total of 21 studies comparing gray matter volumes of 660 BD patients and 770 healthy control subjects were included. Gray matter reduction in left rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and right fronto-insular cortex was associated with BD. Fronto-insular cortex abnormality was not evident in early phases of the illness. In chronic patients, longer duration of illness was associated with increased gray matter in a cluster that included basal ganglia, subgenual ACC, and amygdala. Lithium treatment was associated with enlargement of ACC gray matter volumes, which overlapped with the region where gray matter was reduced in BD.


The most robust gray matter reductions in BD occur in anterior limbic regions, which may be related to the executive control and emotional processing abnormalities seen in this patient population. Clinical factors such as illness duration and lithium treatment also impact on case-control comparisons of gray matter volume.

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