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The output of many healthy physiological systems displays fractal fluctuations with self-similar temporal structures. Altered fractal patterns are associated with pathological conditions. There is evidence that patients with bipolar disorder have altered daily behaviors.
To test whether fractal patterns in motor activity are altered in patients with bipolar disorder, we analyzed 2-week actigraphy data collected from 106 patients with bipolar disorder type I in a euthymic state, 73 unaffected siblings of patients, and 76 controls. To examine the link between fractal patterns and symptoms, we analyzed 180-day actigraphy and mood symptom data that were simultaneously collected from 14 patients.
Compared to controls, patients showed excessive regularity in motor activity fluctuations at small time scales (<1.5 h) as quantified by a larger scaling exponent (α1 > 1), indicating a more rigid motor control system. α1 values of siblings were between those of patients and controls. Further examinations revealed that the group differences in α1 were only significant in females. Sex also affected the group differences in fractal patterns at larger time scales (>2 h) as quantified by scaling exponent α2. Specifically, female patients and siblings had a smaller α2 compared to female controls, indicating more random activity fluctuations; while male patients had a larger α2 compared to male controls. Interestingly, a higher weekly depression score was associated with a lower α1 in the subsequent week.
Our results show sex- and scale-dependent alterations in fractal activity regulation in patients with bipolar disorder. The mechanisms underlying the alterations are yet to be determined.
Bipolar disorder (BD) is a highly heritable mood disorder with complex genetic architecture and poorly understood etiology. Previous transcriptomic BD studies have had inconsistent findings due to issues such as small sample sizes and difficulty in adequately accounting for confounders like medication use.
We performed a differential expression analysis in a well-characterized BD case-control sample (Nsubjects = 480) by RNA sequencing of whole blood. We further performed co-expression network analysis, functional enrichment, and cell type decomposition, and integrated differentially expressed genes with genetic risk.
While we observed widespread differential gene expression patterns between affected and unaffected individuals, these effects were largely linked to lithium treatment at the time of blood draw (FDR < 0.05, Ngenes = 976) rather than BD diagnosis itself (FDR < 0.05, Ngenes = 6). These lithium-associated genes were enriched for cell signaling and immune response functional annotations, among others, and were associated with neutrophil cell-type proportions, which were elevated in lithium users. Neither genes with altered expression in cases nor in lithium users were enriched for BD, schizophrenia, and depression genetic risk based on information from genome-wide association studies, nor was gene expression associated with polygenic risk scores for BD.
These findings suggest that BD is associated with minimal changes in whole blood gene expression independent of medication use but emphasize the importance of accounting for medication use and cell type heterogeneity in psychiatric transcriptomic studies. The results of this study add to mounting evidence of lithium's cell signaling and immune-related mechanisms.
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