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We evaluate for the first time the associations of brain white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with neuropsychological variables among middle-aged bipolar I (BPI), II (BPII) and major depressive disorder (MDD) patients and controls using a path model.
Thirteen BPI, 15 BPII, 16 MDD patients, and 21 controls underwent brain MRI and a neuropsychological examination. Two experienced neuroradiologists evaluated WMHs on the MRI scans. We constructed structural equation models to test the strength of the associations between deep WMH (DWMH) grade, neuropsychological performance and diagnostic group.
Belonging in the BPI group as opposed to the control group predicted higher DWMH grade (coefficient estimate 1.13, P = 0.012). The DWMH grade independently predicted worse performance on the Visual Span Forward test (coefficient estimate −0.48, P = 0.002). Group effects of BPI and MDD were significant in predicting poorer performance on the Digit Symbol test (coefficient estimate −5.57, P = 0.016 and coefficient estimate −5.66, P = 0.034, respectively).
Because of the small number of study subjects in groups, the negative results must be considered with caution.
Only BPI patients had an increased risk for DWMHs. DWMHs were independently associated with deficits in visual attention.