Connectomic Deep Brain Stimulation for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2021 Nov 15;90(10):678-688. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2021.07.010. Epub 2021 Jul 19.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder is among the most disabling psychiatric disorders. Although deep brain stimulation is considered an effective treatment, its use in clinical practice is not fully established. This is, at least in part, due to ambiguity about the best suited target and insufficient knowledge about underlying mechanisms. Recent advances suggest that changes in broader brain networks are responsible for improvement of obsessions and compulsions, rather than local impact at the stimulation site. These findings were fueled by innovative methodological approaches using brain connectivity analyses in combination with neuromodulatory interventions. Such a connectomic approach for neuromodulation constitutes an integrative account that aims to characterize optimal target networks. In this critical review, we integrate findings from connectomic studies and deep brain stimulation interventions to characterize a neural network presumably effective in reducing obsessions and compulsions. To this end, we scrutinize methodologies and seemingly conflicting findings with the aim to merge observations to identify common and diverse pathways for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. Ultimately, we propose a unified network that-when modulated by means of cortical or subcortical interventions-alleviates obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

Keywords: Connectivity; Connectomics; Deep brain stimulation; Neuromodulation; Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Tractography.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Connectome*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation*
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome