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Online database reveals structural brain abnormalities in bipolar disorder

SEPTEMBER 02, 2008

In a paper published in Archives of General Psychiatry a team from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College, the Institute of Psychiatry and University of Oxford have launched a new online database and meta-analysis of structural brain imaging studies in bipolar disorder. The publicly available database includes demographic and clinical information of the patients included in each study and details of the brain regions examined. The results of these studies have been statistically combined using a technique known as meta-analysis.The senior author of the study was Professor Paul Grasby (MRC Clinical Sciences Centre).

Although many studies have investigated structural brain changes in bipolar disorder they have included small numbers of participants meaning they may not be powerful enough to detect subtle but important changes in brain structure. To try and detect these abnormalities the authors conducted a meta-analysis, combining the results of 98 neuroimaging studies of bipolar disorder, and also assessed the effect of medication and clinical variables.

Dr Kempton (Institute of Psychiatry) who co-authored the paper, said “By combining the results from a large number of studies we found important brain structural abnormalities in bipolar disorder, and discovered interesting effects of medication. We also compared our results to a similar meta-analysis in patients with schizophrenia which reveal interesting differences between these conditions. These abnormalities may give us clues to the aetiology, or cause of bipolar disorder.”

In addition to the paper and database the authors have also made their meta-analysis freely available on the internet, potentially allowing other researchers to update the meta-analysis with their own results. Dr Kempton said “We hope the online database and meta-analysis will be a useful resource for future studies.”

The paper entitled ‘Meta-analysis, database and meta-regression of 98 structural imaging studies in bipolar disorder’ is published in Archives of General Psychiatry Vol 65 No. 9, September 2008

The online database is available at

The paper’s authors are: M J Kempton (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); John R Geddes (University of Oxford); Ulrich Ettinger (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); Steven C. R. Williams (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); Paul M Grasby (MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College). Dr Kempton was supported by an MRC studentship at the MRC CSC and was funded in part by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry.
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