Prefrontal, parietal, and limbic condition-dependent differences in bipolar disorder: a large-scale meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Jul;28(7):2826-2838. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-01974-8. Epub 2023 Feb 13.


Background: Over the past few decades, neuroimaging research in Bipolar Disorder (BD) has identified neural differences underlying cognitive and emotional processing. However, substantial clinical and methodological heterogeneity present across neuroimaging experiments potentially hinders the identification of consistent neural biomarkers of BD. This meta-analysis aims to comprehensively reassess brain activation and connectivity in BD in order to identify replicable differences that converge across and within resting-state, cognitive, and emotional neuroimaging experiments.

Methods: Neuroimaging experiments (using fMRI, PET, or arterial spin labeling) reporting whole-brain results in adults with BD and controls published from December 1999-June 18, 2019 were identified via PubMed search. Coordinates showing significant activation and/or connectivity differences between BD participants and controls during resting-state, emotional, or cognitive tasks were extracted. Four parallel, independent meta-analyses were calculated using the revised activation likelihood estimation algorithm: all experiment types, all resting-state experiments, all cognitive experiments, and all emotional experiments. To confirm reliability of identified clusters, two different meta-analytic significance tests were employed.

Results: 205 published studies yielding 506 individual neuroimaging experiments (150 resting-state, 134 cognitive, 222 emotional) comprising 5745 BD and 8023 control participants were included. Five regions survived both significance tests. Individuals with BD showed functional differences in the right posterior cingulate cortex during resting-state experiments, the left amygdala during emotional experiments, including those using a mixed (positive/negative) valence manipulation, and the left superior and right inferior parietal lobules during cognitive experiments, while hyperactivating the left medial orbitofrontal cortex during cognitive experiments. Across all experiments, there was convergence in the right caudate extending to the ventral striatum, surviving only one significance test.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate reproducible localization of prefrontal, parietal, and limbic differences distinguishing BD from control participants that are condition-dependent, despite heterogeneity, and point towards a framework for identifying reproducible differences in BD that may guide diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Reproducibility of Results