Fronto-limbic dysfunction in mania pre-treatment and persistent amygdala over-activity post-treatment in pediatric bipolar disorder

Abstract

Rationale

Neural deficits at the interface of affect and cognition may improve with pharmacotherapy in pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD).

Objectives

We examined lamotrigine treatment impact on the neural interface of working memory and affect in PBD.

Methods

Un-medicated, acutely ill, patients with mania and hypomania (n = 17), and healthy controls (HC; n = 13; mean age = 13.36 ± 2.55) performed an affective two-back functional magnetic resonance imaging task with blocks of angry vs neutral faces (i.e., angry face condition) or happy vs neutral faces (i.e., happy face condition) before treatment and at follow-up, after 8-week treatment with second-generation antipsychotics followed by 6 weeks of lamotrigine monotherapy.

Results

At baseline, for the angry face condition, PBD, relative to HC, showed reduced activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) and right caudate; for the happy face condition, PBD showed increased activation in bilateral PFC and right amygdala and middle temporal gyrus. Post-treatment, PBD showed greater activation in right amygdala relative to HC for both conditions. Patients, relative to HC, exhibited greater changes over time in the right VLPFC and amygdala, left subgenual anterior cingulate cortex and left caudate for the angry face condition, and in right middle temporal gyrus for the happy face condition.

Conclusions

Pharmacotherapy resulted in symptom improvement and normalization of higher cortical emotional and cognitive regions in patients relative to HC, suggesting that the VLPFC dysfunction may be state-specific in PBD. Amygdala was overactive in PBD, relative to HC, regardless of reduction in manic symptoms, and may be a trait marker of PBD.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank the children and families for their participation and for making this study possible. This work is supported by NIH K23 RR18638-01, the Dana Foundation, and NARSAD. The present study complies with the current laws of the USA.

Conflicts of interest

Dr. Passarotti has no financial relationships to disclose. Dr. Pavuluri’s work, unrelated to this manuscript, is supported by NARSAD Independent Investigator Award, NIMH, NICHD, DANA foundation, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Sweeney, also unrelated to this work, has received support from NIH, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

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Passarotti, A.M., Sweeney, J.A. & Pavuluri, M.N. Fronto-limbic dysfunction in mania pre-treatment and persistent amygdala over-activity post-treatment in pediatric bipolar disorder. Psychopharmacology 216, 485–499 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-011-2243-2

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Keywords

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Bipolar
  • Lamotrigine
  • Working memory
  • Face emotion
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • State
  • Trait
  • Brain imaging
  • Emotion