Cortico-Striatal-Thalamic Loop Circuits of the Orbitofrontal Cortex: Promising Therapeutic Targets in Psychiatric Illness

Front Syst Neurosci. 2017 Apr 27:11:25. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2017.00025. eCollection 2017.


Corticostriatal circuits through the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) play key roles in complex human behaviors such as evaluation, affect regulation and reward-based decision-making. Importantly, the medial and lateral OFC (mOFC and lOFC) circuits have functionally and anatomically distinct connectivity profiles which differentially contribute to the various aspects of goal-directed behavior. OFC corticostriatal circuits have been consistently implicated across a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use disorders (SUDs). Furthermore, psychiatric disorders related to OFC corticostriatal dysfunction can be addressed via conventional and novel neurostimulatory techniques, including deep brain stimulation (DBS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Such techniques elicit changes in OFC corticostriatal activity, resulting in changes in clinical symptomatology. Here we review the available literature regarding how disturbances in mOFC and lOFC corticostriatal functioning may lead to psychiatric symptomatology in the aforementioned disorders, and how psychiatric treatments may exert their therapeutic effect by rectifying abnormal OFC corticostriatal activity. First, we review the role of OFC corticostriatal circuits in reward-guided learning, decision-making, affect regulation and reappraisal. Second, we discuss the role of OFC corticostriatal circuit dysfunction across a wide range of psychiatric disorders. Third, we review available evidence that the therapeutic mechanisms of various neuromodulation techniques may directly involve rectifying abnormal activity in mOFC and lOFC corticostriatal circuits. Finally, we examine the potential of future applications of therapeutic brain stimulation targeted at OFC circuitry; specifically, the role of OFC brain stimulation in the growing field of individually-tailored therapies and personalized medicine in psychiatry.

Keywords: brain stimulation; corticostriatal circuits; orbitofrontal cortex (OFC); psychiatric disease; research domain criteria (RDoC).

Publication types

  • Review