Psychiatric symptoms correlate with metabolic indices in the hippocampus and cingulate in patients with mitochondrial disorders
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There is increasing recognition that mitochondrial dysfunction may have a critical role in the pathophysiology of major psychiatric illnesses. Patients with mitochondrial disorders offer a unique window through which we can begin to understand the association between psychiatric symptoms and mitochondrial dysfunction in vivo. Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS), we investigated metabolic indices in mitochondrial patients in regions of the brain that have been implicated in psychiatric illness: the caudate, cingulate cortex and hippocampus. In all, 15 patients with mitochondrial disorders and 15 age- and sex-matched controls underwent a comprehensive psychiatric assessment, including the administration of standardized psychiatric rating scales, followed by single voxel (1)H-MRS of the caudate, cingulate cortex and hippocampus to measure N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), creatine (Cr), glycerophosphocholine (GPC), myoinositol and glutamate+glutamine (Glx). Pearson's correlation coefficients were used to determine correlations between metabolites and the psychiatric rating scales. Anxiety symptoms in these patients correlated with higher GPC, Glx, myoinositol and Cr in the hippocampus. Impaired level of function as a result of psychiatric symptoms correlated with higher Glx and GPC in the cingulate cortex. In summary, we found remarkably consistent, and statistically significant, correlations between anxiety and metabolic indices in the hippocampus in patients with mitochondrial disorders, while overall impairment of functioning due to psychiatric symptoms correlated with metabolic markers in the cingulate cortex. These findings lend support to the notion that mitochondrial dysfunction in specific brain regions can give rise to psychiatric symptoms. In particular, they suggest that metabolic processes in the hippocampus may have an important role in the neurobiology of anxiety.
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