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White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are one the most common neuroimaging findings in patients with bipolar disorder (BD). It has been suggested that WMHs are associated with impaired insight in schizophrenia and schizoaffective patients; however, the relationship between insight and WMHs in BD type I has not been directly investigated.
Patients with BD-I (148) were recruited and underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Affective symptoms were assessed using Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS17); the presence of impaired insight was based on the corresponding items of YMRS and HDRS17.
Multiple punctate periventricular WMHs (PWMHs) and deep WMHs (DWMHs) were observed in 49.3% and 39.9% of the cases, respectively. Subjects with lower insight for mania had significantly more PWMHs (54.6% vs 22.2%; p < 0.05) when compared to BD-I patients with higher insight for mania. The presence of PWMHs was independently associated with lower insight for mania: patients who denied illness according to the YMRS were 4 times more likely to have PWMHs (95% CI: 1.21/13.42) than other patients.
Impaired insight in BD-I is associated with periventricular WMHs. The early identification of BD-I subjects with PWMHs and impaired insight may be crucial for clinicians.
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