Age-dependent reduction of amygdala volume in bipolar disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2008 May 30;163(1):84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2007.08.003. Epub 2008 Apr 14.


The amygdala is hypothesized to play a critical role in mood regulation, yet its involvement in bipolar disorder remains unclear. The aim of the present study was to compare measurements of amygdala volumes in a relatively large sample of bipolar disorder patients and healthy controls ranging in age from 18 to 49 years. Subjects comprised 54 adult patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder and 41 healthy controls matched for age, sex, and education. Magnetic resonance imaging (1.5 T) was performed to obtain volumetric measurements of the amygdala using a manual region-of-interest tracing method with software that allowed simultaneous visualization of the amygdala in three orthogonal planes. The anterior head of the hippocampus was removed in the sagittal plane prior to amygdala volumetry measurement. Multiple regression analysis was computed on amygdala volume measurements as a function of diagnosis, age, sex, and cerebral volume. Bipolar patients showed an age-related reduction of amygdala volume, but controls did not. Among bipolar subjects, amygdala volume was unrelated to medication history. There were no significant hemispheric or sex interactions with the main effects. Results support a role for amygdala dysfunction in bipolar disorder which appears most robustly in older relative to younger adult patients. Differential aging effects in bipolar disorder may compromise amygdala integrity and contribute to mood dysregulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Amygdala / pathology*
  • Atrophy
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Bipolar Disorder / pathology
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values