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Bipolar Disord. 2013 Dec;15(8):855-64. doi: 10.1111/bdi.12117. Epub 2013 Aug 27.

Bipolar II disorder is associated with thinning of prefrontal and temporal cortices involved in affect regulation.

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Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway; Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



The neurobiological substrate of bipolar II disorder (BD-II) remains largely unknown. A few previous studies have found evidence for cerebral cortical thinning in mixed samples of BD-II and bipolar I disorder patients; however, no study of cortical thickness or surface area has been limited to BD-II. In the present study, we compared magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based indices of cortical thickness and surface area between individuals with BD-II and healthy controls.


Thirty-six individuals with a DSM-IV diagnosis of BD-II and 42 controls underwent 3T MRI. Comparisons of thickness and relative surface areal expansion across the cerebral cortical mantle were performed using Freesurfer.


Individuals with BD-II showed significant thinning in two prefrontal clusters primarily comprising the left subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, left perigenual ventromedial prefrontal cortex (PFC), bilateral dorsomedial PFC, and bilateral dorsolateral PFC (p < 0.0002 for both clusters, cluster size corrected) and in a left temporal cluster involving the superior, middle, and inferior temporal gyrus (p = 0.006, cluster size corrected). No group differences in cortical surface area were found. No significant effect of medication, mood state, illness duration, or family history of bipolar disorders on cortical thinning was observed.


These results indicate that BD-II is associated with thinning of prefrontal and temporal cortices implicated in the expression and regulation of negative and positive affect. Longitudinal studies are needed to clarify whether cortical thinning is a stable trait of BD-II, an illness effect that might progress during the course of the disease, or a combination of the two.


bipolar II disorder; cortical surface area; cortical thickness; cortical thinning; prefrontal cortex; temporal cortex

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