Similar white matter changes in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: A tract-based spatial statistics study

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Several strands of evidence reported a significant overlapping, in terms of clinical symptoms, epidemiology and treatment response, between the two major psychotic disorders—Schizophrenia (SCZ) and Bipolar Disorder (BD). Nevertheless, the shared neurobiological correlates of these two disorders are far from conclusive. This study aims toward a better understanding of possible common microstructural brain alterations in SCZ and BD. Magnetic Resonance Diffusion data of 33 patients with BD, 19 with SCZ and 35 healthy controls were acquired. Diffusion indexes were calculated, then analyzed using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). We tested correlations with clinical and psychological variables. In both patient groups mean diffusion (MD), volume ratio (VR) and radial diffusivity (RD) showed a significant increase, while fractional anisotropy (FA) and mode (MO) decreased compared to the healthy group. Changes in diffusion were located, for both diseases, in the fronto-temporal and callosal networks. Finally, no significant differences were identified between patient groups, and a significant correlations between length of disease and FA and VR within the corpus callosum, corona radiata and thalamic radiation were observed in bipolar disorder. To our knowledge, this is the first study applying TBSS on all the DTI indexes at the same time in both patient groups showing that they share similar impairments in microstructural connectivity, with particular regards to fronto-temporal and callosal communication, which are likely to worsen over time. Such features may represent neural common underpinnings characterizing major psychoses and confirm the central role of white matter pathology in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.




Squarcina, L., Bellani, M., Rossetti, M. G., Perlini, C., Delvecchio, G., Dusi, N., … Brambilla, P. (2017). Similar white matter changes in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: A tract-based spatial statistics study. PLoS ONE, 12(6).

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