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PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22361. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022361. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

Disproportionate alterations in the anterior and posterior insular cortices in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, College of Natural Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.



Recent studies have reported that the insular cortex is involved in the pathophysiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, specific morphometric abnormalities of the insular subregions remain unclear. In this study, we examined insular cortical volume to determine whether the volume of the anterior and posterior insular cortices of unmedicated OCD patients differed according to different symptom dimensions.


Using magnetic resonance imaging, we measured the gray matter volumes of the insular cortex and its subregions (anterior and posterior divisions) in 41 patients with OCD (31 drug-naïve and 10 non-medicated) and 53 healthy controls. Volumetric measures of the insular cortex were compared according to different OC symptoms. Enlarged anterior and reduced posterior insular cortices were observed in OCD patients. The insular volumetric alterations were more significant in OCD patients with predominant checking rather than cleaning symptoms when compared with healthy controls.


Our results suggest the presence of unbalanced anterior and posterior insular volumetric abnormalities in unmedicated OCD patients and emphasize the distinct role of the insular cortex in different OC symptoms. We propose that the insular morphometric alterations may influence the modulation of interoceptive processing, the insular functional role, in OCD patients with different symptoms.

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