OBJECTIVES: Anatomical abnormalities in the basal ganglia of adult mood disorder patients have been reported. To investigate whether these abnormalities are present early in illness course, we compared the volume of striatal structures in young bipolar patients and healthy controls. METHODS: Brain magnetic resonance images of 15 children and adolescents who met DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorders and 21 healthy controls were obtained. Measurements were performed manually, by trained evaluators, who were blind to subjects' diagnosis. The volumes of caudate and putamen were compared in patients and controls. RESULTS: The volumes of striatal structures were not significantly different in patients and controls (ANCOVA, p > 0.05). However, we found a significant inverse relationship between age and the volumes of left caudate (r = -0.72, p < 0.01), right caudate (r = -0.66, p = 0.02) and left putamen (r = -0.71, p = 0.01) in bipolar patients, not present in healthy controls. CONCLUSIONS: Abnormalities in striatal development may be involved in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder.
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