Thalamic Subregions and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms in 2,500 Children From the General Population

Cees J Weeland, Chris Vriend, Ysbrand van der Werf, Chaim Huyser, Manon Hillegers, Henning Tiemeier, Tonya White, Odile A van den Heuvel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and clinically relevant obsessive-compulsive symptoms in the general population are associated with increased thalamic volume. It is unknown whether this enlargement is explained by specific thalamic subregions. The relation between obsessive-compulsive symptoms and volume of thalamic subregions was investigated in a population-based sample of children. Method: Obsessive-compulsive symptoms were measured in children (9–12 years of age) from the Generation R Study using the Short Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Screener (SOCS). Thalamic nuclei volumes were extracted from structural 3T magnetic resonance imaging scans using the ThalamicNuclei pipeline and regrouped into anterior, ventral, intralaminar/medial, lateral, and pulvinar subregions. Volumes were compared between children with symptoms above clinical cutoff (probable OCD cases, SOCS ≥ 6, n = 156) and matched children without symptoms (n = 156). Linear regression models were fitted to investigate the association between continuous SOCS score and subregional volume in the whole sample (N = 2500). Results: Children with probable OCD had larger ventral nuclei compared with children without symptoms (d = 0.25, p = .025, false discovery rate adjusted p = .126). SOCS score showed a negative association with pulvinar volume when accounting for overall thalamic volume (β = −0.057, p = .009, false discovery rate adjusted p = .09). However, these associations did not survive multiple testing correction. Conclusion: The results suggest that individual nuclei groups contribute in varying degrees to overall thalamic volume in children with probable OCD, although this did not survive multiple comparisons correction. Understanding the role of thalamic nuclei and their associated circuits in pediatric OCD could lead toward treatment strategies targeting these circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

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