Anatomical MRI study of basal ganglia in bipolar disorder patients

Paolo Brambilla, Keith Harenski, Mark A. Nicoletti, Alan G. Mallinger, Ellen Frank, David J. Kupfer, Matcheri S. Keshavan, Jair C. Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study examined possible anatomical abnormalities in basal ganglia structures in bipolar disorder patients. Caudate and putamen gray matter volumes, and globus pallidus total volume were measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 22 DSM-IV bipolar patients (age ± S.D. = 36 ± 10 years; eight drug-free and 14 lithium monotherapy patients) and 22 matched healthy control subjects (age ± S.D. = 38 ± 10 years). No significant differences were found between bipolar patients and healthy control subjects for any of the basal ganglia measures (t-tests, P > 0.05). Age was inversely correlated with left putamen volumes in patients (R = -0.44, P = 0.04), but not in healthy control subjects (R = -0.33, P = 0.14). Older patients (> 36 years old) had a significantly larger left globus pallidus than younger ones (≤ 36 years old) (ANOVA, P = 0.01). In a multiple regression analysis, after entering age as independent variable, the length of illness predicted smaller left putamen volumes, explaining 10.4% of the variance (F = 4.07, d.f. = 2, P = 0.03). No significant effects of episode type, number of prior episodes, or gender were found in any basal ganglia measurements (ANOVA, P > 0.05). In conclusion, our findings indicate that the basal ganglia may be anatomically preserved in bipolar patients. This is in contrast to available findings for unipolar disorder. However, our findings also suggest that age and length of illness may have significant effects on basal ganglia structures in bipolar patients, which may be more pronounced among bipolar I patients, and of relevance for the pathophysiology of the disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-80
Number of pages16
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 10 2001


  • Brain imaging
  • Caudate
  • Globus pallidus
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Mood disorders
  • Putamen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychology(all)

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