Brain white matter integrity and association with age at onset in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder

Rosso IM, Olson EA, Britton JC, Stewart SE, Papadimitriou G, Killgore WD, Makris N, Wilhelm S, Jenike MA, Rauch SL

Biol Mood Anxiety Disord 2014;4(1):13

PMID: 25540681


BACKGROUND: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common and debilitating neuropsychiatric illness thought to involve abnormal connectivity of widespread brain networks, including frontal-striatal-thalamic circuits. At least half of OCD cases arise in childhood and their underlying neuropathology may differ at least in part from that of adult-onset OCD. Yet, only a few studies have examined brain white matter (WM) integrity in childhood-onset OCD using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and none have examined potential associations with age at onset.

RESULTS: In this study, 17 youth with OCD and 19 healthy control subjects, ages 10 to 19 years, underwent DTI on a 3T Siemens scanner. DSM-IV diagnoses were established with standardized interviews, and OCD symptom severity was evaluated using the Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS). Voxel-wise analyses were conducted on data processed with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to derive measures of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity (AD), radial diffusivity (RD), and mean diffusivity (MD). OCD patients had significantly lower FA in seven WM clusters, with over 80% of significant voxels in bilateral frontal cortex and corpus callosum (CC). There were no regions of significantly higher FA in patients compared with controls. Patients also had significantly higher RD in right frontal cortex and right body of the CC. Earlier age at onset of OCD correlated significantly with lower FA in the right thalamus and with higher RD in the right CC. FA and RD were not significantly associated with symptom severity.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings point to compromised WM integrity and reduced myelination in some brain regions of children with OCD, particularly the CC and fiber tracts that connect the frontal lobes to widespread cortical and subcortical targets. They also suggest that age at onset may be a moderator of some of the WM changes in pediatric OCD.