Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 6 (3), 175-202

The Neurobiological Link Between OCD and ADHD


The Neurobiological Link Between OCD and ADHD

Silvia Brem et al. Atten Defic Hyperact Disord.


Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two of the most common neuropsychiatric diseases in paediatric populations. The high comorbidity of ADHD and OCD with each other, especially of ADHD in paediatric OCD, is well described. OCD and ADHD often follow a chronic course with persistent rates of at least 40-50 %. Family studies showed high heritability in ADHD and OCD, and some genetic findings showed similar variants for both disorders of the same pathogenetic mechanisms, whereas other genetic findings may differentiate between ADHD and OCD. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies suggest that partly similar executive functions are affected in both disorders. The deficits in the corresponding brain networks may be responsible for the perseverative, compulsive symptoms in OCD but also for the disinhibited and impulsive symptoms characterizing ADHD. This article reviews the current literature of neuroimaging, neurochemical circuitry, neuropsychological and genetic findings considering similarities as well as differences between OCD and ADHD.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The centres of the clusters that showed differences in grey matter volumes of patients with ADHD or OCD in five recent meta-analyses (Ellison-Wright et al. ; Frodl and Skokauskas ; Nakao et al. ; Rotge et al. ; Radua and Mataix-Cols 2009) are plotted as spheres (r = 4 mm) on sagittal (top) and axial slices (bottom) using MRICron (Rorden et al. 2007). Alterations in the grey matter volumes of patients with ADHD are shown in blue and of patients with OCD in red/yellow. Nicely visible are the differences in the volume of the basal ganglia in ADHD (reduced volume: light blue) and OCD (increased volume: yellow) as compared to controls

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 9 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Abbruzzese M, Ferri S, Scarone S. The selective breakdown of frontal functions in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder and in patients with schizophrenia: a double dissociation experimental finding. Neuropsychologia. 1997;35(6):907–912. - PubMed
    1. Abramovitch A, Dar R, Hermesh H, Schweiger A. Comparative neuropsychology of adult obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: implications for a novel executive overload model of OCD. J Neuropsychol. 2012;6(2):161–191. - PubMed
    1. Abramovitch A, Abramowitz JS, Mittelman A. The neuropsychology of adult obsessive-compulsive disorder: a meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013;33(8):1163–1171. - PubMed
    1. Albin RL, Young AB, Penney JB. The functional anatomy of basal ganglia disorders. Trends Neurosci. 1989;12(10):366–375. - PubMed
    1. Albrecht B, Banaschewski T, Brandeis D, Heinrich H, Rothenberger A. Response inhibition deficits in externalizing child psychiatric disorders: an ERP-study with the Stop-task. Behav Brain Funct. 2005;1:22. - PMC - PubMed

MeSH terms