Amygdala activation in response to facial expressions in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder

Depress Anxiety. 2010 Jul;27(7):643-51. doi: 10.1002/da.20718.


Background: Exaggerated amygdala activation to threatening faces has been detected in adults and children with anxiety disorders, compared to healthy comparison (HC) subjects. However, the profile of amygdala activation in response to facial expressions in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be a distinguishing feature; a prior study found that compared with healthy adults, adults with OCD exhibited less amygdala activation to emotional and neutral faces, relative to fixation [Cannistraro et al. (2004). Biological Psychiatry 56:916-920].

Methods: In the current event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, a pediatric OCD sample (N=12) and a HC sample (N=17) performed a gender discrimination task while viewing emotional faces (happy, fearful, disgusted) and neutral faces.

Results: Compared to the HC group, the OCD group showed less amygdala/hippocampus activation in all emotion and neutral conditions relative to fixation.

Conclusions: Like previous reports in adult OCD, pediatric OCD may have a distinct neural profile from other anxiety disorders, with respect to amygdala activation in response to emotional stimuli that are not disorder specific.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Sex Factors