An increase in brain white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) and a decrease in white matter fractional anisotrophy (FA) have been detected in bipolar I (BPI), II (BPII), and major depressive disorder (MDD) patients. Their relationship, and differences in diagnostic groups are obscure. Longitudinal studies are rare.
After 5-year follow-up, we evaluated WMHs in BPI, BPII, and MDD patients as compared with controls, and studied the effects of clinical variables. We also explored the associations of clinical variables with cross-sectional whole brain FA.
Eight BPI, 8 BPII, 6 MDD patients, and 19 controls participated in magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and follow-up. Diffusion weighted imaging was included at follow-up. WMHs were rated by the Coffey scale, and a tract-based spatial statistics method was used for diffusion data. The general linear model, ANOVA, Fisher’s exact, Wilcoxon sign, and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used for statistical analyses.
Periventricular WMHs were increased in BPI patients (p = 0.047) and associated with the duration of disorder and lifetime occurrence of substance use disorder (p = 0.018). FA decrease was found in the corpus callosum of BPI patients (p < 0.01). MDD patients showed FA decrease in the right cerebellar middle peduncle (RCMP) (p < 0.01). In BPI patients, the duration of disorder associated with FA increase in RCMP (p < 0.05). No FA decrease was detected in patients with WMHs as compared with those without.
Preceding illness burden associated modestly with WMHs, and FA increase in RCMP in BPI patients. MDD patients had FA decrease in RCMP. No association with FA decrease and WMHs was found.

© 2021 S. Karger AG, Basel.