BACKGROUND: Morphometric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of pediatric bipolar disorder (BD) have not reported on gray matter volumes but have reported increased lateral ventricular size and presence of white matter hyperintensities (WMH). We studied gray matter volume, ventricular-to-brain ratios (VBR), and number of WMH in patients with familial, pediatric BD compared with control subjects. METHODS: Twenty subjects with BD (aged 14.6 +/- 2.8 years; 4 female) according to the Washington University in St. Louis Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia, each with a parent with BD, and 20 age-, gender-, and intelligence quotient-matched healthy control subjects (aged 14.1 +/- 2.8 years; 4 female) were scanned at 3 T. Most subjects were taking psychotropic medications. A high-resolution T1-weighted spoiled gradient echo three-dimensional MRI sequence was analyzed by BrainImage for volumetric measurements, and T2-weighted images were read by a neuroradiologist to determine presence of WMH. RESULTS: After covarying for age and total brain volume, there were no significant differences between subjects with BD and control subjects in volume of cerebral (p = .09) or prefrontal gray matter (p = .34). Subjects with BD did not have elevated numbers of WMH or greater VBR when compared with control subjects. CONCLUSIONS: Children and adolescents with familial BD do not seem to have decreased cerebral grey matter or increased numbers of WMH, dissimilar to findings in adults with BD. Gray matter decreases and development of WMH might be later sequelae of BD or unique to adult-onset BD.
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