Neuroimaging of cognitive brain function in paediatric obsessive compulsive disorder: a review of literature and preliminary meta-analysis

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012 Nov;119(11):1425-48. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0813-z. Epub 2012 Jun 8.


Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a frequent psychiatric disorder with a prevalence of 1-3 %, and it places an enormous burden on patients and their relatives. Up to 50 % of all cases suffer from onset in childhood or adolescence, and the disorder often takes a chronic course with a poor long-term prognosis. Paediatric OCD, with its high familiality, is often referred to as a distinct OCD subtype that coincides with a developmental period in which the prefrontal cortex exhibits extensive structural and functional maturation. In the present review, we included all studies examining cognitive brain activation in children and/or adolescents with OCD. We conducted extensive literature searches for relevant articles (Pubmed, ScienceDirect) and summarize, tabulate, and discuss their results. For the eight activation studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we also performed preliminary meta-analyses to assess the most consistent hypo- and hyperactivation in paediatric OCD patients during cognitive task performance. The review of literature as well as our preliminary meta-analyses of paediatric studies indicated altered functional activation in the same brain regions of affective and cognitive cortico-striatal-thalamic (CST) circuits as for adult OCD patients despite some variations in the direction of activation difference. The still small number of studies that examined brain activation in paediatric OCD patients thereby largely converged with previous findings in adult patients and with the established neurobiological models of CST circuit dysfunction in OCD.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / pathology
  • Pediatrics*