Background: Abnormalities of white matter integrity have been repeatedly demonstrated in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with voxel based methods. Because these methods are limited in their ability to localize deficits to specific tracts, we sought to investigate alterations in fractional anisotropy (FA) in the uncinate fasciculus and anterior thalamic radiation with probabilistic tractography.
Methods: Individuals with schizophrenia (n = 25) or bipolar disorder (n = 40) were recruited from families with two or more affected members and age-matched to a control group (n = 49). All participants underwent diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging that was subsequently analyzed with probabilistic tractography. Mean FA was calculated bilaterally for the uncinate and anterior thalamic radiation and compared between groups with repeated measures analysis of variance.
Results: Patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder showed common reductions in the uncinate fasciculus and anterior thalamic radiation. These reductions were unrelated to age, duration of illness, current medication, or current psychiatric symptoms in all patients or the lifetime presence of psychotic symptoms in bipolar subjects.
Conclusions: Patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder show common abnormalities in the uncinate fasciculus and anterior thalamic radiation that fail to respect traditional diagnostic boundaries. These deficits might be related to shared risk factors and disease mechanisms common to both disorders.