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White matter abnormalities constitute one element of the network dysfunction that underlies affective disorders: differences between the white matter of subjects with affective disorders and control subjects have been identified using a range of neuroimaging and histological techniques. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can uniquely study the orientation and integrity of white matter tracts and is thus an ideal tool to shed light on white matter abnormalities in subjects with affective disorders. Here, we systematically review DTI studies of affective disorders. We identified DTI studies of affective disorders from EMBASE and MEDLINE and searched the reference lists of relevant papers. Twenty-seven articles comparing subjects with affective disorders with control subjects were included in the review, with eight studies included in a meta-analysis of superior frontal regions. Twenty-one of 27 studies found significantly lower anisotropy in subjects with affective disorders compared with control subjects, more specifically within the frontal and temporal lobes or tracts. A large effect size was detected within the superior frontal gyrus, although heterogeneity and one index of publication bias were significant. Although there is significant heterogeneity of acquisition and analysis methods and subject properties, DTI studies of affective disorders consistently identify reduced anisotropy in the frontal and temporal lobes and tracts of subjects with affective disorders relative to control subjects.

Original publication




Journal article


Biol Psychiatry

Publication Date





814 - 823


Anisotropy, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Mood Disorders, Nerve Fibers, Myelinated, Temporal Lobe