Abnormal topological organization in white matter structural networks revealed by diffusion tensor tractography in unmedicated patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 3;51:39-50. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2014.01.005. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Background: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic psychiatric disorder defined by recurrent thoughts, intrusive and distressing impulses, or images and ritualistic behaviors. Although focal diverse regional abnormalities white matter integrity in specific brain regions have been widely studied in populations with OCD, alterations in the structural connectivities among them remain poorly understood.

Objective: The aim was to investigate the abnormalities in the topological efficiency of the white matter networks and the correlation between the network metrics and Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale scores in unmedicated OCD patients, using diffusion tensor tractography and graph theoretical approaches.

Methods: This study used diffusion tensor imaging and deterministic tractography to map the white matter structural networks in 26 OCD patients and 39 age- and gender-matched healthy controls; and then applied graph theoretical methods to investigate abnormalities in the global and regional properties of the white matter network in these patients.

Results: The patients and control participants both showed small-world organization of the white matter networks. However, the OCD patients exhibited significant abnormal global topology, including decreases in global efficiency (t = -2.32, p = 0.02) and increases in shortest path length, Lp (t = 2.30, p = 0.02), the normalized weighted shortest path length, λ (t = 2.08, p=0.04), and the normalized clustering coefficient, γ (t = 2.26, p = 0.03), of their white matter structural networks compared with healthy controls. Further, the OCD patients showed a reduction in nodal efficiency predominately in the frontal regions, the parietal regions and caudate nucleus. The normalized weighted shortest path length of the network metrics was significantly negatively correlated with obsessive subscale of the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (r = -0.57, p = 0.0058).

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the abnormal topological efficiency in the white matter networks in OCD patients.

Keywords: Brain network; Connectivity; Diffusion tensor imaging; Obsessive–compulsive disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Nerve Net / pathology*
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / pathology*
  • Young Adult