Changes in the brain structural connectome after a prospective randomized clinical trial of lithium and quetiapine treatment in youth with bipolar disorder

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021 Jun;46(7):1315-1323. doi: 10.1038/s41386-021-00989-5. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


The goals of the current study were to determine whether topological organization of brain structural networks is altered in youth with bipolar disorder, whether such alterations predict treatment outcomes, and whether they are normalized by treatment. Youth with bipolar disorder were randomized to double-blind treatment with quetiapine or lithium and assessed weekly. High-resolution MRI images were collected from children and adolescents with bipolar disorder who were experiencing a mixed or manic episode (n = 100) and healthy youth (n = 63). Brain networks were constructed based on the similarity of morphological features across regions and analyzed using graph theory approaches. We tested for pretreatment anatomical differences between bipolar and healthy youth and for changes in neuroanatomic network metrics following treatment in the youth with bipolar disorder. Youth with bipolar disorder showed significantly increased clustering coefficient (Cp) (p = 0.009) and characteristic path length (Lp) (p = 0.04) at baseline, and altered nodal centralities in insula, inferior frontal gyrus, and supplementary motor area. Cp, Lp, and nodal centrality of the insula exhibited normalization in patients following treatment. Changes in these neuroanatomic parameters were correlated with improvement in manic symptoms but did not differ between the two drug therapies. Baseline structural network matrices significantly differentiated medication responders and non-responders with 80% accuracy. These findings demonstrate that both global and nodal structural network features are altered in early course bipolar disorder, and that pretreatment alterations in neuroanatomic features predicted treatment outcome and were reduced by treatment. Similar connectome normalization with lithium and quetiapine suggests that the connectome changes are a downstream effect of both therapies that is related to their clinical efficacy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bipolar Disorder* / diagnostic imaging
  • Bipolar Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Connectome*
  • Humans
  • Lithium
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quetiapine Fumarate


  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Lithium