Current evidence from neuroimaging data suggests possible dysfunction of the fronto-striatal-limbic circuits in individuals with bipolar disorder. Somatosensory cortical function has been implicated in emotional recognition, risk-taking and affective responses through sensory modalities. This study investigates anatomy and function of the somatosensory cortex in euthymic bipolar women.
In total, 68 right-handed euthymic women (bipolar disorder = 32 and healthy controls = 36) between 16 and 45 years of age underwent high-resolution anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging during the mid-follicular menstrual phase. The somatosensory cortex was used as a seed region for resting-state functional connectivity analysis. Voxel-based morphometry was used to evaluate somatosensory cortical gray matter volume between groups.
We found increased resting-state functional connectivity between the somatosensory cortex and insular cortex, inferior prefrontal gyrus and frontal orbital cortex in euthymic bipolar disorder subjects compared to healthy controls. Voxel-based morphometry analysis showed decreased gray matter in the left somatosensory cortex in the bipolar disorder group. Whole-brain voxel-based morphometry analysis controlled by age did not reveal any additional significant difference between groups.
This study is the first to date to evaluate anatomy and function of the somatosensory cortex in a well-characterized sample of euthymic bipolar disorder females. Anatomical and functional changes in the somatosensory cortex in this population might contribute to the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder.