Cortical Abnormalities Associated With Pediatric and Adult Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Findings From the ENIGMA Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Working Group

Am J Psychiatry. 2018 May 1;175(5):453-462. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17050485. Epub 2017 Dec 15.


Objective: Brain imaging studies of structural abnormalities in OCD have yielded inconsistent results, partly because of limited statistical power, clinical heterogeneity, and methodological differences. The authors conducted meta- and mega-analyses comprising the largest study of cortical morphometry in OCD ever undertaken.

Method: T1-weighted MRI scans of 1,905 OCD patients and 1,760 healthy controls from 27 sites worldwide were processed locally using FreeSurfer to assess cortical thickness and surface area. Effect sizes for differences between patients and controls, and associations with clinical characteristics, were calculated using linear regression models controlling for age, sex, site, and intracranial volume.

Results: In adult OCD patients versus controls, we found a significantly lower surface area for the transverse temporal cortex and a thinner inferior parietal cortex. Medicated adult OCD patients also showed thinner cortices throughout the brain. In pediatric OCD patients compared with controls, we found significantly thinner inferior and superior parietal cortices, but none of the regions analyzed showed significant differences in surface area. However, medicated pediatric OCD patients had lower surface area in frontal regions. Cohen's d effect sizes varied from -0.10 to -0.33.

Conclusions: The parietal cortex was consistently implicated in both adults and children with OCD. More widespread cortical thickness abnormalities were found in medicated adult OCD patients, and more pronounced surface area deficits (mainly in frontal regions) were found in medicated pediatric OCD patients. These cortical measures represent distinct morphological features and may be differentially affected during different stages of development and illness, and possibly moderated by disease profile and medication.

Keywords: Cortical Thickness; FreeSurfer; MRI; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Surface Area.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Cerebral Cortex / abnormalities*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Child
  • Frontal Lobe / abnormalities
  • Frontal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Frontal Lobe / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Parietal Lobe / abnormalities
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / drug effects
  • Reference Values
  • Temporal Lobe / abnormalities
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Lobe / drug effects
  • Young Adult