White matter microstructure and its relation to clinical features of obsessive-compulsive disorder: findings from the ENIGMA OCD Working Group

ENIGMA OCD Working Group

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Microstructural alterations in cortico-subcortical connections are thought to be present in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, prior studies have yielded inconsistent findings, perhaps because small sample sizes provided insufficient power to detect subtle abnormalities. Here we investigated microstructural white matter alterations and their relation to clinical features in the largest dataset of adult and pediatric OCD to date. We analyzed diffusion tensor imaging metrics from 700 adult patients and 645 adult controls, as well as 174 pediatric patients and 144 pediatric controls across 19 sites participating in the ENIGMA OCD Working Group, in a cross-sectional case-control magnetic resonance study. We extracted measures of fractional anisotropy (FA) as main outcome, and mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, and axial diffusivity as secondary outcomes for 25 white matter regions. We meta-analyzed patient-control group differences (Cohen's d) across sites, after adjusting for age and sex, and investigated associations with clinical characteristics. Adult OCD patients showed significant FA reduction in the sagittal stratum (d = -0.21, z = -3.21, p = 0.001) and posterior thalamic radiation (d = -0.26, z = -4.57, p < 0.0001). In the sagittal stratum, lower FA was associated with a younger age of onset (z = 2.71, p = 0.006), longer duration of illness (z = -2.086, p = 0.036), and a higher percentage of medicated patients in the cohorts studied (z = -1.98, p = 0.047). No significant association with symptom severity was found. Pediatric OCD patients did not show any detectable microstructural abnormalities compared to controls. Our findings of microstructural alterations in projection and association fibers to posterior brain regions in OCD are consistent with models emphasizing deficits in connectivity as an important feature of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173
Pages (from-to)173
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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