White matter disruptions in patients with bipolar disorder

Lucija Abramovic, Marco P.M. Boks, Annabel Vreeker, Sanne Verkooijen, Annet H. van Bergen, Roel A. Ophoff, René S. Kahn, Neeltje E.M. van Haren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Bipolar disorder (BD) patients show aberrant white matter microstructure compared to healthy controls but little is known about the relation with clinical characteristics. We therefore investigated the relation of white matter microstructure with the main pharmacological treatments as well its relation with IQ. Patients with BD (N = 257) and controls (N = 167) underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and comprehensive clinically assessments including IQ estimates. DTI images were analyzed using tract-based spatial statistics. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and Mean Diffusivity (MD) were determined. Patients had significantly lower FA and higher MD values throughout the white matter skeleton compared to controls. Within the BD patients, lithium use was associated with higher FA and lower MD. Antipsychotic medication use in the BD patients was not associated with FA but, in contrast to lithium, was associated with higher MD. IQ was significantly positively correlated with FA and negatively with MD in patients as well as in controls. In this large DTI study we found evidence for marked differences in FA and MD particularly in (but not restricted to) corpus callosum, between BD patients and controls. This effect was most pronounced in lithium-free patients, implicating that lithium affects white matter microstructure and attenuates differences associated with bipolar disorder. Effects of antipsychotic medication intake were absent in FA and only subtle in MD relative to those of lithium. The abnormal white matter microstructure was associated with IQ but not specifically for either group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-751
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Antipsychotic medication
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Diffusion-weighted imaging
  • IQ
  • Lithium
  • TBSS


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