The effects of cognitive behavioral therapy on the whole brain structural connectome in unmedicated patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2021 Jan 10:104:110037. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.110037. Epub 2020 Jul 17.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered a first-line treatment for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and it possesses advantages over pharmacological treatments in stronger tolerance to distress, lower rates of drop out and relapse, and no physical "side-effects". Previous studies have reported CBT-related alterations in focal brain regions and connections. However, the effects of CBT on whole-brain structural networks have not yet been elucidated. Here, we collected diffusion MRI data from 34 unmedicated OCD patients before and after 12 weeks of CBT. Fifty healthy controls (HCs) were also scanned twice at matched intervals. We constructed individual brain white matter connectome and performed a graph-theoretical network analysis to investigate the effects of CBT on whole-brain structural topology. We observed significant group-by-time interactions on the global network clustering coefficient and the nodal clustering of the left lingual gyrus, the left middle temporal gyrus, the left precuneus, and the left fusiform gyrus of 26 CBT responders in OCD patients. Further analysis revealed that these CBT responders showed prominently higher global and nodal clustering compared to HCs at baseline and reduced to normal levels after CBT. Such significant changes in the nodal clustering of the left lingual gyrus were also found in 8 CBT non-responders. The pre-to-post decreases in nodal clustering of the left lingual gyrus and the left fusiform gyrus positively correlated with the improvements in obsessive-compulsive symptoms in the CBT-responding patients. These findings indicated that the network segregation of the whole-brain white matter network in OCD patients was abnormally higher and might recover to normal after CBT, which provides mechanistic insights into the CBT response in OCD and potential imaging biomarkers for clinical practice.

Keywords: Brain network; Cognitive-behavioral therapy; Diffusion tensor imaging; Graph-theoretical analysis; Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Connectome*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult