Decrease in thalamic volumes of pediatric patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder who are taking paroxetine

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000 May;57(5):449-56. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.57.5.449.


Background: Thalamic dysfunction has been implicated in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While OCD frequently has its onset during childhood, to our knowledge, no prior study has measured neuroanatomical changes in the thalamus of patients with OCD near the onset of illness, and before and after treatment.

Methods: Volumetric magnetic resonance imaging studies were conducted in 21 psychotropic drug-naive children, aged 8 to 17 years, with OCD and 21 case-matched healthy comparison subjects. Magnetic resonance imaging studies were also conducted in 10 of the 21 patients with OCD after 12 weeks of monotherapy with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, paroxetine hydrochloride.

Results: Thalamic volumes were significantly greater in treatment-naive patients with OCD than in controls but declined significantly after paroxetine monotherapy to levels comparable with those of controls. Decrease in thalamic volume in patients with OCD was associated with reduction in OCD symptom severity.

Conclusions: Our findings provide new evidence of thalamic abnormalities in pediatric OCD and further suggest that paroxetine treatment may be paralleled by a reduction in thalamic volume. These reductions may, however, not be specific to paroxetine treatment and could be due to a more general treatment response, and/or spontaneous improvement in symptoms. Our findings are preliminary given the small sample size and our inability to measure discrete thalamic nuclei.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Paroxetine / pharmacology
  • Paroxetine / therapeutic use*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / drug effects
  • Thalamus / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Paroxetine