Diffusion tensor imaging in psychiatric disorders

Top Magn Reson Imaging. 2008 Apr;19(2):97-109. doi: 10.1097/RMR.0b013e3181809f1e.


Objectives: Since the development of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) nearly a decade ago, it has been extensively applied to a number of different psychiatric disorders. Its rapid assimilation into psychiatric research has stemmed from its unique property to measure the coherence and direction of neuronal fiber tracts. The goal of this article is to provide an overview of DTI and its application to psychiatric disorders.

Methods: We performed an extensive literature review of articles using DTI to study psychiatric disorders. To date, most DTI studies have been performed on individuals with schizophrenia. However, recent studies have emerged that evaluate white matter (WM) integrity in major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, autism, and personality disorders.

Results: There is tremendous heterogeneity in the results of DTI studies of patients with psychiatric disorders. In schizophrenia, which currently has more than 50 studies using DTI, brain regions such as the cingulate bundle, corpus callosum, and regions within the frontal and temporal WM have a proportionally larger number of positive findings across the studies. Studies of other psychiatric disorders have findings that overlap with those seen in schizophrenia.

Conclusions: There is converging evidence that a number of psychiatric disorders are associated with WM abnormalities. However, the considerable heterogeneity of results, both within and between existing studies, will require future work within and across psychiatric disorders to better delineate the neurobiological underpinnings of these white matter abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Psychiatry / trends*