Neural activation during encoding of emotional faces in pediatric bipolar disorder

Daniel P. Dickstein*, Brendan A. Rich, Roxann Roberson-nay, Lisa Berghorst, Deborah Vinton, Daniel S. Pine, Ellen Leibenluft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Objective: Neurobiological understanding of bipolar disorder (BD) is limited by a paucity of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research examining correlates of psychological processes. To begin to address these limitations, the current study tests the hypothesis that pediatric BD (PBD) subjects exhibit altered neural activation during encoding of emotional faces compared to typically developing controls. Methods: Pediatric BD subjects (n = 23; mean age = 14.2 ± 3.1 years) and controls (n = 22; mean age = 14.7 ± 2.3 years) were matched on age, gender, and IQ. In this event-related fMRI study, subjects were scanned while viewing emotional faces and given a surprise recognition memory test 30 min postscan. Our main outcome measure was between-group differences in neural activation during successful versus unsuccessful face encoding. Results: Pediatric BD youth exhibited reduced memory for emotional faces, relative to healthy comparisons, particularly on fearful faces. Event-related fMRI analyses controlling for this behavioral difference showed that PBD subjects, compared to controls, had increased neural activation in the striatum and anterior cingulate cortex when successfully encoding happy faces and in the orbitofrontal cortex when successfully encoding angry faces. There were no between-group differences in neural activation during fearful face encoding. Conclusions: Our results extend what is known about memory and face emotion processing impairments in PBD subjects by showing increased fronto-striatal activation during encoding of emotional faces. Further work is required to determine the impact of mood state, medication, and comorbid illnesses on these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-692
Number of pages14
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Adolescent
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Child
  • Emotion
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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