Reduced inferior frontal gyrus activation during response inhibition to emotional stimuli in youth at high risk of bipolar disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 1;74(1):55-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.11.004. Epub 2012 Dec 13.


Background: Functional brain imaging of young people at increased genetic risk for bipolar disorder provides a means of identifying potential endophenotypes for this condition. Dysfunctional neural mechanisms for the cognitive control of emotion are implicated in the genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder, with aberrant activity in frontocortical, striatal, and limbic brain regions previously reported in subjects with established bipolar disorder during inhibitory and emotion processing tasks.

Methods: Functional brain activity during inhibition of emotional material in young people at increased genetic risk for bipolar disorder was investigated using a facial-emotion go/no-go task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Data from 47 genetically high-risk individuals aged 18 to 30 years with at least one first-degree relative with bipolar disorder were compared with 49 control subjects (within the same age range but without a family history of bipolar disorder or other severe mental illness).

Results: Whole-brain corrected analyses revealed a highly specific and significant lack of recruitment of the inferior frontal gyrus when inhibiting responses to fearful faces in the high-risk participants compared with control subjects (p = .011, family-wise error, peak voxel).

Conclusions: Impaired inhibitory function of the inferior frontal cortex may represent a trait marker of vulnerability to bipolar disorder. That this finding was revealed during inhibition of emotional material further implicates dysregulated frontolimbic brain networks as a potential neurocognitive endophenotype for bipolar disorder and provides evidence for pre-existing functional disturbances in those at high genetic risk for bipolar disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Endophenotypes
  • Facial Expression
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult