Microstructural white matter changes are correlated with the stage of psychiatric illness

J. Lagopoulos*, D. F. Hermens, S. N. Hatton, R. A. Battisti, J. Tobias-Webb, D. White, S. L. Naismith, E. M. Scott, W. J. Ryder, M. R. Bennett, I. B. Hickie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Microstructural white matter changes have been reported in the brains of patients across a range of psychiatric disorders. Evidence now demonstrates significant overlap in these regions in patients with affective and psychotic disorders, thus raising the possibility that these conditions share common neurobiological processes. If affective and psychotic disorders share these disruptions, it is unclear whether they occur early in the course or develop gradually with persistence or recurrence of illness. Utilisation of a clinical staging model, as an adjunct to traditional diagnostic practice, is a viable mechanism for measuring illness progression. It is particularly relevant in young people presenting early in their illness course. It also provides a suitable framework for determining the timing of emergent brain alterations, including disruptions of white matter tracts. Using diffusion tensor imaging, we investigated the integrity of white matter tracts in 74 patients with sub-syndromal psychiatric symptoms as well as in 69 patients diagnosed with established psychosis or affective disorder and contrasted these findings with those of 39 healthy controls. A significant disruption in white matter integrity was found in the left anterior corona radiata and in particular the anterior thalamic radiation for both the patients groups when separately contrasted with healthy controls. Our results suggest that patients with sub-syndromal symptoms exhibit discernable early white matter changes when compared with healthy control subjects and more significant disruptions are associated with clinical evidence of illness progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere248
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Clinical staging
  • Depression
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • MRI
  • Psychosis


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