Cerebral white matter lesions and affective episodes correlate in male individuals with bipolar disorder

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© 2015 Birner et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background Cerebral white matter lesions (WML) have been found in normal aging, vascular disease and several neuropsychiatric conditions. Correlations of WML with clinical parameters in BD have been described, but not with the number of affective episodes, illness duration, age of onset and Body Mass Index in a well characterized group of euthymic bipolar adults. Herein, we aimed to evaluate the associations between bipolar course of illness parameters and WML measured with volumetric analysis. Methods In a cross-sectional study 100 euthymic individuals with BD as well as 54 healthy controls (HC) were enrolled to undergo brain magnetic resonance imaging using 3T including a FLAIR sequence for volumetric assessment of WML-load using FSL-software. Additionally, clinical characteristics and psychometric measures including Structured Clinical Interview according to DSM-IV, Hamilton-Depression, Young Mania Rating Scale and Beck's Depression Inventory were evaluated. Results Individuals with BD had significantly more (F = 3.968, p < .05) WML (Mdn = 3710mm3; IQR = 2961mm3) than HC (Mdn = 2185mm3; IQR = 1665mm3). BD men (Mdn = 4095mm3; IQR = 3295mm3) and BD women (Mdn = 3032mm3; IQR = 2816mm3) did not significantly differ as to the WML-load or the number and type of risk factors for WML. However, in men only, the number of manic/hypomanic episodes (r = 0.72; p < .001) as well as depressive episodes (r = 0.51; p < .001) correlated positively with WML-load. Conclusions WML-load strongly correlated with the number of manic episodes in male BD patients, suggesting that men might be more vulnerable to mania in the context of cerebral white matter changes.




Birner, A., Seiler, S., Lackner, N., Bengesser, S. A., Queissner, R., Fellendorf, F. T., … Reininghaus, E. Z. (2015). Cerebral white matter lesions and affective episodes correlate in male individuals with bipolar disorder. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0135313

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