Bipolar disorder (BD) is highly heritable. Thus, studies in first-degree relatives of individuals with BD could lead to the discovery of objective risk markers of BD. Abnormalities in white matter structure reported in at-risk individuals could play an important role in the pathophysiology of BD. Due to the lack of studies with other at-risk offspring, however, it remains unclear whether such abnormalities reflect BD-specific or generic risk markers for future psychopathology. Using a tract-profile approach, we examined 18 major white matter tracts in 38 offspring of BD parents, 36 offspring of comparison parents with non-BD psychopathology (depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and 41 offspring of healthy parents. Both at-risk groups showed significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) in left-sided tracts (cingulum, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, forceps minor), and significantly greater FA in right-sided tracts (uncinate fasciculus and inferior longitudinal fasciculus), relative to offspring of healthy parents (P < 0.05). These abnormalities were present in both healthy and affected youth in at-risk groups. Only offspring (particularly healthy offspring) of BD parents showed lower FA in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus relative to healthy offspring of healthy parents (P < 0.05). We show, for the first time, important similarities, and some differences, in white matter structure between offspring of BD and offspring of non-BD parents. Findings suggest that lower left-sided and higher right-sided FA in tracts important for emotional regulation may represent markers of risk for general, rather than BD-specific, psychopathology. Lower FA in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus may protect against development of BD in offspring of BD parents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health