White matter abnormalities in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder

Patricia Gruner, An Vo, Toshikazu Ikuta, Katie Mahon, Bart D Peters, Anil K Malhotra, Aziz M Uluğ, Philip R Szeszko
Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 2012, 37 (12): 2730-9
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a prevalent and often severely disabling illness with onset generally in childhood or adolescence. Although white matter deficits have been implicated in the neurobiology of OCD, few studies have been conducted in pediatric patients when the brain is still developing and have examined their functional correlates. In this study, 23 pediatric OCD patients and 23 healthy volunteers, between the ages of 9 and 17 years, matched for sex, age, handedness, and IQ, received a diffusion tensor imaging exam on a 3T GE system and a brief neuropsychological battery tapping executive functions. Patient symptom severity was assessed using the Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS). Patients with OCD exhibited significantly greater fractional anisotropy compared to matched controls in the left dorsal cingulum bundle, splenium of the corpus callosum, right corticospinal tract, and left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. There were no regions of significantly lower fractional anisotropy in patients compared to controls. Higher fractional anisotropy in the splenium was significantly correlated with greater obsession severity on the CY-BOCS in the subgroup of psychotropic drug-naïve patients. Among patients, there was a significant association between greater fractional anisotropy in the dorsal cingulum bundle and better performance on measures of response inhibition and cognitive control. The overall findings suggest a pattern of greater directional coherence of white matter tracts in OCD very early in the course of illness, which may serve a compensatory mechanism, at least for response inhibition functions typically subserved by the cingulum bundle.

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