White matter microstructure in youth at risk for serious mental illness: A comparative analysis

Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2021 Jun 30:312:111289. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2021.111289. Epub 2021 Apr 20.


Identifying biomarkers of serious mental illness, such as altered white matter microstructure, can aid in early diagnosis and treatment. White matter microstructure was assessed using constrained spherical deconvolution of diffusion imaging data in a sample of 219 youth (age 12-25 years, 64.84% female) across 8 sites. Participants were classified as healthy controls (HC; n = 47), familial risk for serious mental illness (n = 31), mild-symptoms (n = 37), attenuated syndromes (n = 66), or discrete disorder (n = 38) based on clinical assessments. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) values were derived for the whole brain white matter, forceps minor, anterior cingulate, anterior thalamic radiations (ATR), inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), and uncinate fasciculus (UF). Linear mixed effects models showed a significant effect of age on MD of the left ATR, left SLF, and left UF, and a significant effect of group on FA for all tracts examined. For most tracts, the discrete disorder group had significantly lower FA than other groups, and the attenuated syndromes group had higher FA compared to HC, with few differences between the remaining groups. White matter differences in MDD are most evident in individuals following illness onset, as few significant differences were observed in the risk phase.

Keywords: CAN-BIND; Constrained spherical deconvolution; Depression; Fibre tractography; PROCAN; Transdiagnostic risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Child
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • Young Adult

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