Multimodal assessments of the hippocampal formation in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder : evidences from neurobehavioral measures and functional and structural MRI
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A potential clinical and etiological overlap between schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) has long been a subject of discussion. Imaging studies imply functional and structural alterations of the hippocampus in both diseases. Thus, imaging this core memory region could provide insight into the pathophysiology of these disorders and the associated cognitive deficits. To examine possible shared alterations in the hippocampus, we conducted a multi-modal assessment, including functional and structural imaging as well as neurobehavioral measures of memory performance in BD and SZ patients compared with healthy controls. We assessed episodic memory performance, using tests of verbal and visual learning (HVLT, BVMT) in three groups of participants: BD patients (n = 21), SZ patients (n = 21) and matched (age, gender, education) healthy control subjects (n = 21). In addition, we examined hippocampal resting state functional connectivity, hippocampal volume using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and fibre integrity of hippocampal connections using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We found memory deficits, changes in functional connectivity within the hippocampal network as well as volumetric reductions and altered white matter fibre integrity across patient groups in comparison with controls. However, SZ patients when directly compared with BD patients were more severely affected in several of the assessed parameters (verbal learning, left hippocampal volumes, mean diffusivity of bilateral cingulum and right uncinated fasciculus). The results of our study suggest a graded expression of verbal learning deficits accompanied by structural alterations within the hippocampus in BD patients and SZ patients, with SZ patients being more strongly affected. Our findings imply that these two disorders may share some common pathophysiological mechanisms. The results could thus help to further advance and integrate current pathophysiological models of SZ and BD.