Reduced left anterior cingulate volumes in untreated bipolar patients
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BACKGROUND: Functional and morphologic abnormalities of the cingulate cortex have been reported in mood disorder patients. To examine the involvement of anatomic abnormalities of the cingulate in bipolar disorder, we measured the volumes of this structure in untreated and lithium-treated bipolar patients and healthy control subjects, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). METHODS: The volumes of gray matter at the right and left anterior and posterior cingulate cortices were measured in 11 bipolar patients not taking any psychotropic medications (aged 38 +/- 11 years, 5 women), 16 bipolar patients treated with lithium monotherapy (aged 33 +/- 11 years, 7 women), and 39 healthy control subjects (aged 37 +/- 10 years, 14 women). Volumetric measurements were made with T1-weighted coronal MRI images, with 1.5-mm-thick slices, at 1.5T, and were done blindly. RESULTS: Using analysis of covariance with age and intracranial volume as covariates, we found that untreated bipolar patients had decreased left anterior cingulate volumes compared with healthy control subjects [2.4 +/-.3 cm3 and 2.9 +/-.6 cm3, respectively; F(1,58) = 6.4, p =.042] and compared with lithium-treated patients [3.3 +/-.5 cm3; F(1,58) = 11.7, p =.003]. The cingulate volumes in lithium-treated patients were not significantly different from those of healthy control subjects. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that anatomic abnormalities in left anterior cingulate are present in bipolar patients. Furthermore, our results suggest that lithium treatment might influence cingulate volumes in bipolar patients, which could possibly reflect postulated neuroprotective effects of lithium.