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Expert Rev Neurother. 2009 Aug;9(8):1133-46. doi: 10.1586/ern.09.36.

Endophenotypes of obsessive-compulsive disorder: rationale, evidence and future potential.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, CB2 2QQ, UK.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a heritable and debilitating neuropsychiatric condition. Attempts to delineate genetic contributions have met with limited success, and there is an ongoing search for intermediate trait or vulnerability markers rooted in the neurosciences. Such markers would be valuable for detecting people at risk of developing the condition, clarifying etiological factors and targeting novel treatments. This review begins with brief coverage of the epidemiology of OCD, and presents a hierarchical model of the condition. The advantages of neuropsychological assessment and neuroimaging as objective measures of brain integrity and function are discussed. We describe the concept of endophenotypes and examples of their successful use in medicine and psychiatry. Key areas of focus in the search for OCD endophenotypes are identified, such as measures of inhibitory control and probes of the integrity of orbitofrontal and posterior parietal cortices. Finally, we discuss exciting findings in unaffected first-degree relatives of patients with OCD that have led to the identification of several candidate endophenotypes of the disorder, with important implications for neurobiological understanding and treatment of this and related conditions.

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