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Br J Psychiatry Suppl. 1998;(35):26-37.

Neuroimaging and frontal-subcortical circuitry in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute 90024-1759, USA.



Neuroimaging studies provide strong evidence that the pathophysiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves abnormal functioning along specific frontal-subcortical brain circuits.


A literature search was carried out for all brain imaging studies of patients with OCD. We also reviewed the basic science literature on the functional neuroanatomy of cortico-basal ganglia circuits, and integrated this information with neuroimaging data in OCD to formulate a theoretical model of brain mediation of OCD symptoms and response to treatment.


At least a subgroup of patients with OCD may have abnormal basal ganglia development. Functional neuroimaging studies indicate that OCD symptoms are associated with increased activity in orbitofrontal cortex, caudate nucleus, thalamus and anterior cingulate gyrus.


OCD symptoms are mediated by hyperactivity in orbitofrontal-subcortical circuits, perhaps due to an imbalance of tone between direct and indirect striato-pallidal pathways. We present a model which describes how frontal-subcortical brain circuitry may mediate OCD symptomatology, and suggest a hypothesis for how successful treatments may ameliorate symptoms, via their effects on circuit activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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