Decreased prefrontal, anterior cingulate, insula, and ventral striatal metabolism in medication-free depressed outpatients with bipolar disorder

J Psychiatr Res. 2009 Jan;43(3):181-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.04.015. Epub 2008 Jun 25.


This study explored whether cerebral metabolic changes seen in treatment resistant and rapid cycling bipolar depression inpatients are also found in an outpatient sample not specifically selected for treatment resistance or rapid cycling. We assessed 15 depressed outpatients with bipolar disorder (six type I and nine type II) who were medication-free for at least 2 weeks and were not predominantly rapid cycling. The average 28-item Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D) total score was 33.9. The healthy control group comprised 19 age-matched subjects. All participants received a resting quantitative 18F-fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography scan. Data analyses were performed with Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM5). Analyses revealed that depressed patients exhibited similar global metabolism, but decreased absolute regional metabolism in the left much more than right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, bilateral (left greater than right) insula, bilateral subgenual prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, medial prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum, and right precuneus. No region exhibited absolute hypermetabolism. Moreover, HAM-D scores inversely correlated with absolute global metabolism and regional metabolism in the bilateral medial prefrontal gyrus, postcentral gyrus, and middle temporal gyrus. Analysis of relative cerebral metabolism yielded a similar, but less robust pattern of findings. Our findings confirm prefrontal and anterior paralimbic metabolic decreases in cerebral metabolism outside of inpatients specifically selected for treatment resistant and rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Prefrontal metabolic rates were inversely related to severity of depression. There was no evidence of regional hypermetabolism, perhaps because this phenomenon is less robust or more variable than prefrontal hypometabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Basal Ganglia / metabolism
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Bipolar Disorder / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / diagnostic imaging
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / pharmacokinetics
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics
  • Young Adult


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose