Converging evidence points towards a role of insulin signaling in regulating compulsive behavior

Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Sep 12;9(1):225. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0559-6.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder with childhood onset, and is characterized by intrusive thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Previously, we identified insulin signaling being associated with OCD and here, we aim to further investigate this link in vivo. We studied TALLYHO/JngJ (TH) mice, a model of type 2 diabetes mellitus, to (1) assess compulsive and anxious behaviors, (2) determine neuro-metabolite levels by 1 H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and brain structural connectivity by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and (3) investigate plasma and brain protein levels for molecules previously associated with OCD (insulin, Igf1, Kcnq1, and Bdnf) in these subjects. TH mice showed increased compulsivity-like behavior (reduced spontaneous alternation in the Y-maze) and more anxiety (less time spent in the open arms of the elevated plus maze). In parallel, their brains differed in the white matter microstructure measures fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) in the midline corpus callosum (increased FA and decreased MD), in myelinated fibers of the dorsomedial striatum (decreased FA and MD), and superior cerebellar peduncles (decreased FA and MD). MRS revealed increased glucose levels in the dorsomedial striatum and increased glutathione levels in the anterior cingulate cortex in the TH mice relative to their controls. Igf1 expression was reduced in the cerebellum of TH mice but increased in the plasma. In conclusion, our data indicates a role of (abnormal) insulin signaling in compulsivity-like behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / diagnostic imaging
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Compulsive Behavior / diagnostic imaging
  • Compulsive Behavior / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnostic imaging
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mice
  • Proteomics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging


  • Blood Glucose
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Insulin
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I