Widespread Changes In Brain’s White Matter Found In OCD Patients


Detailed brain imaging research suggests there are widespread small-scale defects in the brain’s white matter in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a mental health condition characterized by disturbing, repetitive thoughts that create intense anxiety. To alleviate the anxiety compulsive or ritualistic behaviors are performed.

Led by Dr. Xiongzhao Zhu of Central South University of Changsha, China, this research validates earlier studies showing white matter alterations in adults with OCD, and gives a more accurate picture of where the alterations are located. The brain imaging also suggests a disruption of large-scale brain networks in those having OCD.

The research team scanned for OCD-related defects using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A noninvasive technique, DTI is sensitive to the orientation and structure of a living brain’s white matter fibers.

For this study the DTI scans were performed on 24 people with OCD, and on 23 non-OCD control participants. Those having OCD showed more abnormalities in the length of nerve fiber bundles bridging different brain regions, and in the structural integrity of their white matter. Though the abnormalities appeared in several brain areas, they were more frequently in the corpus callosum, and the left superior longitudinal fasciculus.

It’s unclear whether the white matter defects cause OCD, but they may alter communication between brain regions involving learning, attention, spatial working memory, and motor control. How medications affect the abnormalities, and how they develop over time is still unknown, but it’s clear the irregularities affect a larger network of brain regions than earlier believed.

This study was published in a March 2017 issue of the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Source: Brain & Brehavior Research Foundation
Photo credit: Fe Ilya

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