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Children with obsessive compulsive disorder show abnormalities in inhibitory brain networks

January 03, 2008

The first functional magnetic resonance imaging study on pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) conducted by Dr James Woolley, Dr Katya Rubia, Dr Isobel Heyman and colleagues has been published in the January 2008  edition of British Journal of Psychiatry.

Adolescents with OCD, most of who were already in remission, showed reduced brain activation in orbitofrontal cortex, thalamus and the basal ganglia when performing tasks of motor and cognitive inhibition. In addition, they also showed deficits in frontal and parietal attention networks during selective attention.

The findings support the theory that OCD is characterised by the inadequate function of inhibitory brain networks that connect the orbitofrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. A dysfunction in these inhibitory networks would explain the problems these patients have with inhibiting intrusive compulsions and obsessions. The fact that deficits were still observed in partially remitted patients suggests that this deficit may be a trait marker of OCD.

 Woolley J, Heyman I, Brammer M, Frampton I, McGuire P, Rubia K (2008) Reduced activation during inhibitory control in task-specific brain regions in paediatric OCD, The British Journal of Psychiatry  192, 25-31.

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