Insula and amygdala resting-state functional connectivity differentiate bipolar from unipolar depression

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2017 Jul;136(1):129-139. doi: 10.1111/acps.12724. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


Objective: Distinguishing depressive episodes due to bipolar disorder (BD) or major depressive disorder (MDD) solely on clinical grounds is challenging. We aimed at comparing resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) of regions subserving emotional regulation in similarly depressed BD and MDD.

Method: We enrolled 76 in-patients (BD, n = 36; MDD, n = 40) and 40 healthy controls (HC). A seed-based approach was used to identify regions showing different rsFC with the insula and the amygdala. Insular and amygdalar parcellations were then performed along with diagnostic accuracy of the main findings.

Results: Lower rsFC between the left insula and the left mid-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and between bilateral insula and right frontopolar prefrontal cortex (FPPFC) was observed in BD compared to MDD and HC. These results were driven by the dorsal anterior and posterior insula (PI). Lower rsFC between the right amygdala and the left anterior hippocampus was observed in MDD compared to BD and HC. These results were driven by the centromedial and laterobasal amygdala. Left PI/right FPPC rsFC showed 78% accuracy differentiating BD and MDD.

Conclusion: rsFC of amygdala and insula distinguished between depressed BD and MDD. The observed differences suggest the possibility of differential pathophysiological mechanisms of emotional dysfunction in bipolar and unipolar depression.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; depression; functional magnetic resonance imaging; major depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / physiopathology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Connectome / methods*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Young Adult