Bipolar disorder comorbid with alcoholism: A 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

Fabiano G. Nery, Jeffrey A. Stanley, Hua Hsuan Chen, John P. Hatch, Mark A. Nicoletti, E. Serap Monkul, Beny Lafer, Jair C. Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Alcoholism is highly prevalent among bipolar disorder (BD) patients, and its presence is associated with a worse outcome and refractoriness to treatment of the mood disorder. The neurobiological underpinnings that characterize this comorbidity are unknown. We sought to investigate the neurochemical profile of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) of BD patients with comorbid alcoholism. A short-TE, single-voxel 1H spectroscopy acquisition at 1.5 T from the left DLFPC of 22 alcoholic BD patients, 26 non-alcoholic BD patients and 54 healthy comparison subjects (HC) were obtained. Absolute levels of N-acetyl aspartate, phosphocreatine plus creatine, choline-containing compounds, myo-inositol, glutamate plus glutamine (Glu + Gln) and glutamate were obtained using the water signal as an internal reference. Analysis of co-variance was used to compare metabolite levels among the three groups. In the primary comparison, non-alcoholic BD patients had higher glutamate concentrations compared to alcoholic BD patients. In secondary comparisons integrating interactions between gender and alcoholism, non-alcoholic BD patients presented significantly higher glutamate plus glutamine (Glu + Gln) than alcoholic BD patients and HC. These results appeared to be driven by differences in male subjects. Alcoholic BD patients with additional drug use disorders presented significantly lower myo-inositol than BD patients with alcoholism alone. The co-occurrence of BD and alcoholism may be characterized by neurochemical abnormalities related to the glutamatergic system and to the inositol second messenger system and/or in glial pathology. These abnormalities may be the neurochemical correlate of an increased risk to develop alcoholism in BD, or of a persistently worse clinical and functional status in BD patients in remission from alcoholism, supporting the clinical recommendation that efforts should be made to prevent or early diagnose and treat alcoholism in BD patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-285
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Alcoholism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Glutamate
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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