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Depression in bipolar disorder (BD-II) is frequently misdiagnosed as unipolar depression (UD) leading to inappropriate treatment and downstream complications for many bipolar sufferers. In this study, we evaluated whether neuromelanin-MR signal and volume changes in the substantia nigra (SN) can be used as potential biomarkers to differentiate BD-II from UD. The signal intensities and volumes of the SN regions were measured, and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) to the decussation of the superior cerebellar peduncles were calculated and compared between healthy controls (HC), BD-II and UD subjects. Results showed that compare to HC, both BD-II and UD subjects had significantly decreased CNR and increased volume on the right and left sides. Moreover, the volume in BD-II group was significantly increased compared to UD group. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for discriminating BD from HC was the largest for the Volume-L (AUC, 0.85; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.77, 0.93). The AUC for discriminating UD from HC was the largest for the Volume-L (AUC, 0.76; 95% CI: 0.65, 0.86). Furthermore, the AUC for discriminating BD from UD was the largest for the Volume-R (AUC, 0.73; 95% CI: 0.62, 0.84). Our findings suggest that neuromelanin-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging techniques can be used to differentiate BD-II from UD. © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Xinping Kuai, Dandan Shao, Shengyu Wang, Pu-Yeh Wu, Yan Wu, Xuexue Wang. Neuromelanin-sensitive MRI of the substantia nigra distinguishes bipolar from unipolar depression. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). 2024 Jan 14;34(1)

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PMID: 37955650

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