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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 286564, 10 pages
Review Article

White Matter Changes in Bipolar Disorder, Alzheimer Disease, and Mild Cognitive Impairment: New Insights from DTI

1Division of Mental Health and Psychiatry, Department of General Psychiatry, University Hospitals of Geneva, Chemin du Petit-Bel-Air, Geneva, Switzerland
2Division of Old Age Psychiatry (PG), University of Lausanne School of Medicine, Lausanne, Switzerland
3Service Neuro-Diagnostique et Neuro-Interventionnel DISIM, University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland

Received 15 April 2011; Revised 10 August 2011; Accepted 5 September 2011

Academic Editor: Sofia Madureira

Copyright © 2011 Aikaterini Xekardaki et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Neuropathological and neuroimaging studies have reported significant changes in white matter in psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a recently developed technique, enables the detection of microstructural changes in white matter. It is a noninvasive in vivo technique that assesses water molecules' diffusion in brain tissues. The most commonly used parameters are axial and radial diffusivity reflecting diffusion along and perpendicular to the axons, as well as mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy representing global diffusion. Although the combination of these parameters provides valuable information about the integrity of brain circuits, their physiological meaning still remains controversial. After reviewing the basic principles of DTI, we report on recent contributions that used this technique to explore subtle structural changes in white matter occurring in elderly patients with bipolar disorder and Alzheimer disease.