Developmental alterations of frontal-striatal-thalamic connectivity in obsessive-compulsive disorder

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;50(9):938-948.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2011.06.011. Epub 2011 Jul 31.


Objective: Pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by abnormalities of frontal-striatal-thalamic circuitry that appear near illness onset and persist over its course. Distinct frontal-striatal-thalamic loops through cortical centers for cognitive control (anterior cingulate cortex) and emotion processing (ventral medial frontal cortex) follow unique maturational trajectories, and altered connectivity within distinct loops may be differentially associated with OCD at specific stages of development.

Method: Altered development of striatal and thalamic connectivity to medial frontal cortex was tested in 60 OCD patients compared with 61 healthy control subjects at child, adolescent, and adult stages of development, using resting-state functional connectivity MRI.

Results: OCD in the youngest patients was associated with reduced connectivity of dorsal striatum and medial dorsal thalamus to rostral and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, respectively. Increased connectivity of dorsal striatum to ventral medial frontal cortex was observed in patients at all developmental stages. In child patients, reduced connectivity between dorsal striatum and rostral anterior cingulate cortex correlated with OCD severity.

Conclusions: Frontal-striatal-thalamic loops involved in cognitive control are hypoconnected in young patients near illness onset, whereas loops implicated in emotion processing are hyperconnected throughout the illness.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neostriatum / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Thalamus / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen