Brain Circuit Abnormality Linked To OCD Onset


In a recent study, neural impairment in a specific brain region in mice led to obsessive, repetitive behaviors, similar to behaviors exhibited by people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Northwestern University (NU) researchers focused on the corticostriatal connection, a brain circuit that manages habitual, repetitive actions in humans, and mice. They discovered that when certain synaptic receptors beneficial for the circuit’s growth were eliminated in mice, the animals showed obsessive behaviors, such as over-grooming.

Their findings, published in the journal Cell Reports, suggest the genes that code for these synaptic receptors influence the onset of obsessive, compulsive traits in people. This knowledge may create a new target for the development of innovative OCD treatments.

“Variations in these receptor genes are associated with human neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and neuropsychiatric disorders such as OCD,” said lead study author Anis Contractor, an associate physiology professor at NU’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “People with OCD are known to have abnormalities in function of corticostriatal circuits.”

Several earlier studies noted mutations in the receptor genes that are associated with human OCD. “I believe our study, which found that a mouse with targeted mutations in these genes exhibited OCD-like behaviors, helps support the current genetic studies on neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders in humans,” says Contractor.

Besides over-grooming, the OCD traits exhibited by the study’s mice included constantly digging in their bedding, and repeatedly failing an easy alternating-choice maze test.

Source: Northwestern Now
Photo credit: Kiah Ankoor

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