CONTEXT - Postmortem studies have reported decreased density and decreased gene expression of hippocampal interneurons in bipolar disorder, but neuroimaging studies of hippocampal volume and function have been inconclusive.
OBJECTIVE - To assess hippocampal volume, neuron number, and interneurons in the same specimens of subjects with bipolar disorder and healthy control subjects.
DESIGN - Whole human hippocampi of 14 subjects with bipolar disorder and 18 healthy control subjects were cut at 2.5-mm intervals and sections from each tissue block were either Nissl-stained or stained with antibodies against somatostatin or parvalbumin. Messenger RNA was extracted from fixed tissue and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction was performed.
SETTING - Basic research laboratories at Vanderbilt University and McLean Hospital.
SAMPLES - Brain specimens from the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center at McLean Hospital.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES - Volume of pyramidal and nonpyramidal cell layers, overall neuron number and size, number of somatostatin- and parvalbumin-positive interneurons, and messenger RNA levels of somatostatin, parvalbumin, and glutamic acid decarboxylase 1.
RESULTS - The 2 groups did not differ in the total number of hippocampal neurons, but the bipolar disorder group showed reduced volume of the nonpyramidal cell layers, reduced somal volume in cornu ammonis sector 2/3, reduced number of somatostatin- and parvalbumin-positive neurons, and reduced messenger RNA levels for somatostatin, parvalbumin, and glutamic acid decarboxylase 1.
CONCLUSION - Our results indicate a specific alteration of hippocampal interneurons in bipolar disorder, likely resulting in hippocampal dysfunction.