Structural alterations in patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder: a surface-based analysis of cortical volume, surface area and thickness

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Abstract

Background

Mounting evidence indicates the presence of structural brain alterations in individuals with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Findings are, however, rather heterogeneous, which may be partly because of differences in methodological approaches or clinical sample characteristics. The aim of the present study was to analyze the whole brain cortical volume, surface area and thickness in a large sample of patients with OCD compared with age- and sex-matched healthy controls.

Methods

We conducted whole brain surface-based analyses of grey matter measures using the automated FreeSurfer software in patients with OCD and matched controls. Group analyses were performed and corrected for multiple testing using Monte Carlo simulations (p < 0.05). Altered brain regions and their average morphological values were associated to symptom severity and type (Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale scores).

Results

We included 75 patients and 75 controls in our analyses. Patients with OCD showed decreases in both volume and surface area compared with healthy controls in inferior-superior parieto-occipital regions. In addition, the precuneus, posterior cingulate areas, middle frontal and orbitofrontal areas, and middle inferior temporal areas extending to the fusiform gyrus were characterized by a reduced surface area only. There were no differences in grey matter thickness between the groups.

Limitations

The presence of comorbidities, medication usage and the multisymptomatic feature of OCD could have influenced our results to a certain degree.

Conclusion

Our results suggest decreased grey matter volume and surface area in several key regions in patients with OCD. Parietal regions showed reductions in both volume and surface area, which underlines the potential relevance of these regions for the pathophysiology of the disorder.

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