Results from structural neuroimaging studies of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been only partially consistent. The authors sought to assess regional gray and white matter volume differences between large samples of OCD patients and healthy comparison subjects and their relation with demographic and clinical variables.
A multicenter voxel-based morphometry mega-analysis was performed on 1.5-T structural T1-weighted MRI scans derived from the International OCD Brain Imaging Consortium. Regional gray and white matter brain volumes were compared between 412 adult OCD patients and 368 healthy subjects.
Relative to healthy comparison subjects, OCD patients had significantly smaller volumes of frontal gray and white matter bilaterally, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the inferior frontal gyrus extending to the anterior insula. Patients also showed greater cerebellar gray matter volume bilaterally compared with healthy subjects. Group differences in frontal gray and white matter volume were significant after correction for multiple comparisons. Additionally, group-by-age interactions were observed in the putamen, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex (indicating relative preservation of volume in patients compared with healthy subjects with increasing age) and in the temporal cortex bilaterally (indicating a relative loss of volume in patients compared with healthy subjects with increasing age).
These findings partially support the prevailing fronto-striatal models of OCD and offer additional insights into the neuroanatomy of the disorder that were not apparent from previous smaller studies. The group-by-age interaction effects in orbitofrontal-striatal and (para)limbic brain regions may be the result of altered neuroplasticity associated with chronic compulsive behaviors, anxiety, or compensatory processes related to cognitive dysfunction.