Structural dysconnectivity of key cognitive and emotional hubs in young people at high genetic risk for bipolar disorder

G. Roberts, A. Perry, A. Lord*, A. Frankland, V. Leung, E. Holmes-Preston, F. Levy, R. K. Lenroot, P. B. Mitchell, M. Breakspear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
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Emerging evidence suggests that psychiatric disorders are associated with disturbances in structural brain networks. Little is known, however, about brain networks in those at high risk (HR) of bipolar disorder (BD), with such disturbances carrying substantial predictive and etiological value. Whole-brain tractography was performed on diffusion-weighted images acquired from 84 unaffected HR individuals with at least one first-degree relative with BD, 38 young patients with BD and 96 matched controls (CNs) with no family history of mental illness. We studied structural connectivity differences between these groups, with a focus on highly connected hubs and networks involving emotional centres. HR participants showed lower structural connectivity in two lateralised sub-networks centred on bilateral inferior frontal gyri and left insular cortex, as well as increased connectivity in a right lateralised limbic sub-network compared with CN subjects. BD was associated with weaker connectivity in a small right-sided sub-network involving connections between fronto-temporal and temporal areas. Although these sub-networks preferentially involved structural hubs, the integrity of the highly connected structural backbone was preserved in both groups. Weaker structural brain networks involving key emotional centres occur in young people at genetic risk of BD and those with established BD. In contrast to other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, the structural core of the brain remains intact, despite the local involvement of network hubs. These results add to our understanding of the neurobiological correlates of BD and provide predictions for outcomes in young people at high genetic risk for BD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413–421
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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