Hyperactive error responses and altered connectivity in ventromedial and frontoinsular cortices in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Mar 15;69(6):583-91. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.09.048. Epub 2010 Dec 7.


Background: Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) show abnormal functioning in ventral frontal brain regions involved in emotional/motivational processes, including anterior insula/frontal operculum (aI/fO) and ventromedial frontal cortex (VMPFC). While OCD has been associated with an increased neural response to errors, the influence of motivational factors on this effect remains poorly understood.

Methods: To investigate the contribution of motivational factors to error processing in OCD and to examine functional connectivity between regions involved in the error response, functional magnetic resonance imaging data were measured in 39 OCD patients (20 unmedicated, 19 medicated) and 38 control subjects (20 unmedicated, 18 medicated) during an error-eliciting interference task where motivational context was varied using monetary incentives (null, loss, and gain).

Results: Across all errors, OCD patients showed reduced deactivation of VMPFC and greater activation in left aI/FO compared with control subjects. For errors specifically resulting in a loss, patients further hyperactivated VMPFC, as well as right aI/FO. Independent of activity associated with task events, OCD patients showed greater functional connectivity between VMPFC and regions of bilateral aI/FO and right thalamus.

Conclusions: Obsessive-compulsive disorder patients show greater activation in neural regions associated with emotion and valuation when making errors, which could be related to altered intrinsic functional connectivity between brain networks. These results highlight the importance of emotional/motivational responses to mistakes in OCD and point to the need for further study of network interactions in the disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Cues
  • Emotions
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis / etiology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Motivation
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / pathology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index