Early detection of Bipolar Disorder (BD) is critical for targeting interventions to delay or prevent illness onset. Yet, the absence of objective BD biomarkers makes accurately identifying at-risk youth difficult. In this study, we examined how relationships between white matter tract (WMT) structure and activity in emotion processing neural circuitry differentiate youth at risk for BD from youth at risk for other psychiatric disorders.
Offspring (ages 8–17) of parents with BD (OBP, n = 32), offspring of comparison parents with non-BD psychopathology (OCP, n = 30), and offspring of healthy parents (OHP, n = 24) underwent diffusion tensor and functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing an emotional face processing task. Penalized and multiple regression analyses included GROUP(OBP,OCP)xWMT interactions as main independent variables, and emotion processing activity as dependent variables, to determine significant group differences in WMT-activity relationships.
8 GROUPxWMT interaction variables contributed to 16.5% of the variance in amygdala and prefrontal cortical activity to happy faces. Of these, significant group differences in slopes (inverse for OBP, positive for OCP) existed for the relationship between forceps minor radial diffusivity and rostral anterior cingulate activity (p = 0.014). Slopes remained significantly different in unmedicated youth without psychiatric disorders (p = 0.017) and were moderated by affective lability symptoms (F(1,29) = 5.566, p = 0.036).