Shared white matter alterations across emotional disorders: A voxel-based meta-analysis of fractional anisotropy

Neuroimage Clin. 2016 Sep 28:12:1022-1034. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2016.09.001. eCollection 2016.


Background: White matter (WM) integrity may represent a shared biomarker for emotional disorders (ED). Aims: To identify transdiagnostic biomarkers of reduced WM by meta-analysis of findings across multiple EDs.

Method: Web of Science was searched systematically for studies of whole brain analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA) in adults with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder compared with a healthy control (HC) group. Peak MNI coordinates were extracted from 37 studies of voxel-based analysis (892 HC and 962 with ED) and meta-analyzed using seed-based d Mapping (SDM) Version 4.31. Separate meta-analyses were also conducted for each disorder.

Results: In the transdiagnostic meta-analysis, reduced FA was identified in ED studies compared to HCs in the left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, forceps minor, uncinate fasciculus, anterior thalamic radiation, superior corona radiata, bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculi, and cerebellum. Disorder-specific meta-analyses revealed the OCD group had the most similarities in reduced FA to other EDs, with every cluster of reduced FA overlapping with at least one other diagnosis. The PTSD group was the most distinct, with no clusters of reduced FA overlapping with any other diagnosis. The BD group were the only disorder to show increased FA in any region, and showed a more bilateral pattern of WM changes, compared to the other groups which tended to demonstrate a left lateralized pattern of FA reductions.

Conclusions: Distinct diagnostic categories of ED show commonalities in WM tracts with reduced FA when compared to HC, which links brain networks involved in cognitive and affective processing. This meta-analysis facilitates an increased understanding of the biological markers that are shared by these ED.

Keywords: Anxiety disorders; Bipolar disorder; Diffusion tensor imaging; Fractional anisotropy; Major depressive disorder; Meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Phobia, Social / diagnostic imaging*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnostic imaging*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*