Bipolar disorder (BD) with psychotic symptoms is a specific phenotype that presents greater risk of relapse and worse outcomes than nonpsychotic BD, however, the underlying mechanisms remain unknown and are less revealed in youth. Thus, the aims of the present study were to investigate brain structural alterations in pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) patients with and without psychotic symptoms, and specifically to evaluate the impact of psychotic features on gray matter volume (GMV) in PBD patients.
A total of 73 individuals were recruited into three groups, n = 28, psychotic PBD, P-PBD; n = 26, nonpsychotic PBD, NP-PBD; and n = 19, healthy controls, HC. All participants underwent high-resolution structural magnetic resonance scans. Voxel-based morphometry was used to investigate GMV alterations. Analyses of variance (ANOVA) were performed to obtain brain regions with significant differences among three groups and then post hoc tests were calculated for inter-group comparisons.
The ANOVA revealed significant GMV differences among three groups in the bilateral amygdala-hippocampus-parahippocampal complex (AMY-HIS-ParaHIS complex), left superior temporal gyrus (STG), left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), bilateral putamen (PUT), left precentral gyrus (PG), left supramarginal gyrus (SMG), and right inferior parietal lobule (IPL). Compared with HCs, P-PBD patients showed decreased GMV in the bilateral AMY-HIS-ParaHIS complex, left STG, left IFG, bilateral PUT, and left PG; while NP-PBD patients exhibited decreased GMV in the left IFG, left PG, left SMG, and right IPL. Furthermore, P-PBD patients showed increased GMV in the right IPL when comparing to NP-PBD patients.
The present findings require replication in larger samples and verification in medication free subjects.
The present findings suggested that psychotic features in PBD were associated with extensive brain structural lesions mainly located in the prefrontal-limbic-striatum circuit, which might represent the pathological basis of more sever symptoms in patients with psychotic PBD.

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