Aberrant brain network topology in fronto-limbic circuitry differentiates euthymic bipolar disorder from recurrent major depressive disorder

Brain Behav. 2019 Jun;9(6):e01257. doi: 10.1002/brb3.1257. Epub 2019 May 7.


Introduction: Previous studies have established graph theoretical analysis of functional network connectivity (FNC) as a potential tool to detect neurobiological underpinnings of psychiatric disorders. Despite the promising outcomes in studies that examined FNC aberrancies in bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD), there is still a lack of research comparing both mood disorders, especially in a nondepressed state. In this study, we used graph theoretical network analysis to compare brain network properties of euthymic BD, euthymic MDD and healthy controls (HC) to evaluate whether these groups showed distinct features in FNC.

Methods: We collected resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 20 BD patients, 15 patients with recurrent MDD as well as 30 age- and gender-matched HC. Graph theoretical analyses were then applied to investigate functional brain networks on a global and regional network level.

Results: Global network analysis revealed a significantly higher mean global clustering coefficient in BD compared to HC. We further detected frontal, temporal and subcortical nodes in emotion regulation areas such as the limbic system and associated regions exhibiting significant differences in network integration and segregation in BD compared to MDD patients and HC. Participants with MDD and HC only differed in frontal and insular network centrality.

Conclusion: In conclusion, our findings indicate that a significantly altered brain network topology in the limbic system might be a trait marker specific to BD. Brain network analysis in these regions may therefore be used to differentiate euthymic BD not only from HC but also from patients with MDD.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; euthymic; fMRI; functional connectivity; graph theory; major depressive disorder; resting-state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / diagnostic imaging
  • Limbic System / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male