Basal ganglia shape alterations in bipolar disorder

Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Feb;163(2):276-85. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.163.2.276.


Objective: Shape differences in the caudate heads and putamen were compared between drug-naive and drug-treated patients with bipolar disorder and healthy comparison subjects by using spherical harmonic (SPHARM) techniques. On the basis of previous studies, the authors hypothesized that the drug-naive patients would exhibit shape differences of the caudate heads and putamen, especially on the right side, relative to the healthy comparison subjects, and that shape differences, relative to healthy comparison subjects, would differ between drug-naive and drug-treated patients.

Method: Brain magnetic resonance images were acquired from 49 bipolar disorder patients (21 drug-naive and 28 drug-treated patients) and 37 healthy comparison subjects. Volumetric measurements were obtained, and SPHARM descriptions were used to measure between-group radius differences in the surfaces of the caudate heads and putamen.

Results: Although no significant between-group volume differences were found in the striatal structures, significant shape differences in the anterior and ventral surfaces of the striatum were observed. Specifically, shape differences, more prominent for the right side, were found for drug-naive bipolar disorder patients, relative to the healthy comparison subjects, but not for drug-treated bipolar disorder subjects.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that drug-naive bipolar disorder patients have shape differences of the striatum, relative to healthy comparison subjects, and that these differences may be modulated by treatment. The findings more generally demonstrate the sensitivity of the SPHARM analytic technique for detecting subtle anatomical shape differences in small brain regions in the absence of volume differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Basal Ganglia / drug effects
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Caudate Nucleus / anatomy & histology
  • Caudate Nucleus / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / anatomy & histology
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Lithium / pharmacology
  • Lithium / therapeutic use
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Putamen / anatomy & histology
  • Putamen / drug effects


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Lithium