Hyperactivation of the Frontal Control Network Revealed by Symptom Provocation in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Using EEG Microstate and sLORETA Analyses

Neuropsychobiology. 2019;77(4):176-185. doi: 10.1159/000491719. Epub 2018 Sep 24.


The aim of this study was to investigate the changes of brain electric field induced by symptom provocation in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in comparison to healthy controls in the resting state. For this purpose, EEG recordings in conditions of initial rest, clean control, symptom provocation by imaginal exposure, and final rest were used for computing spatiotemporal activity characteristics based on microstate segmentation. Within-group comparisons were significant for the symptom provocation condition: OCD showed high global field power (GFP) and transition rates into a medial frontal microstate, whereas healthy controls showed high frequency of occurrence and high percent of dwelling time for a medial occipitoparietal microstate. Between-group comparisons demonstrated significantly lower GFP and dwelling time for the medial occipitoparietal microstate in OCD in several conditions including initial rest and symptom provocation. In addition, OCD compared to healthy controls showed significant instability of the medial occipitoparietal microstate, with high preference for transitions into the medial frontal microstate. In conclusion, during rest and symptom provocation, OCD patients make preferential use of a medial frontal brain network, with concomitant reduction of use of a medial occipitoparietal network, as shown by dwelling times, explained variance, and dynamic transition rates. These findings support the idea of a possible biological marker for OCD, which might correspond to pathological hyperactivation of the frontal control network.

Keywords: Electroencephalographic microstates; Electroencephalography; Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Standardized low-resolution electromagnetic tomography, symptom provocation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Rest
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted