With the introduction of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), structural differences in white matter (WM) architecture between psychiatric populations and healthy controls can be systematically observed and measured. In particular, DTI-tractography can be used to assess WM characteristics over the entire extent of WM tracts and aggregated fiber bundles. Using 64-direction DTI scanning in 27 participants with bipolar disorder (BD) and 26 age-and-gender-matched healthy control subjects, we compared relative length, density, and fractional anisotrophy (FA) of WM tracts involved in emotion regulation or theorized to be important neural components in BD neuropathology. We interactively isolated 22 known white matter tracts using region-of-interest placement (TrackVis software program) and then computed relative tract length, density, and integrity. BD subjects demonstrated significantly shorter WM tracts in the genu, body and splenium of the corpus callosum compared to healthy controls. Additionally, bipolar subjects exhibited reduced fiber density in the genu and body of the corpus callosum, and in the inferior longitudinal fasciculus bilaterally. In the left uncinate fasciculus, however, BD subjects exhibited significantly greater fiber density than healthy controls. There were no significant differences between groups in WM tract FA for those tracts that began and ended in the brain. The significance of differences in tract length and fiber density in BD is discussed.
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