Structural covariance of neostriatal and limbic regions in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder

J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2016 Mar;41(2):115-23. doi: 10.1503/jpn.150012.


Background: Frontostriatal and frontoamygdalar connectivity alterations in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been typically described in functional neuroimaging studies. However, structural covariance, or volumetric correlations across distant brain regions, also provides network-level information. Altered structural covariance has been described in patients with different psychiatric disorders, including OCD, but to our knowledge, alterations within frontostriatal and frontoamygdalar circuits have not been explored.

Methods: We performed a mega-analysis pooling structural MRI scans from the Obsessive-compulsive Brain Imaging Consortium and assessed whole-brain voxel-wise structural covariance of 4 striatal regions (dorsal and ventral caudate nucleus, and dorsal-caudal and ventral-rostral putamen) and 2 amygdalar nuclei (basolateral and centromedial-superficial). Images were preprocessed with the standard pipeline of voxel-based morphometry studies using Statistical Parametric Mapping software.

Results: Our analyses involved 329 patients with OCD and 316 healthy controls. Patients showed increased structural covariance between the left ventral-rostral putamen and the left inferior frontal gyrus/frontal operculum region. This finding had a significant interaction with age; the association held only in the subgroup of older participants. Patients with OCD also showed increased structural covariance between the right centromedial-superficial amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

Limitations: This was a cross-sectional study. Because this is a multisite data set analysis, participant recruitment and image acquisition were performed in different centres. Most patients were taking medication, and treatment protocols differed across centres.

Conclusion: Our results provide evidence for structural network-level alterations in patients with OCD involving 2 frontosubcortical circuits of relevance for the disorder and indicate that structural covariance contributes to fully characterizing brain alterations in patients with psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Limbic System / diagnostic imaging*
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neostriatum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neostriatum / pathology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Sex Characteristics