The neurobiological understanding of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) includes dysregulated frontostriatal circuitry and altered monoamine transmission. Repetitive stereotyped behavior (e.g., grooming), a featured symptom in OCD, has been proposed to be associated with perturbed dopamine (DA) signaling. However, the precise brain circuits participating in DA's control over this behavioral phenotype remain elusive. Here, we identified that DA neurons in substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) orchestrate ventromedial striatum (VMS) microcircuits as well as lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) during self-grooming behavior. SNc-VMS and SNc-lOFC dopaminergic projections modulate grooming behaviors and striatal microcircuit function differentially. Specifically, the activity of the SNc-VMS pathway promotes grooming via D1 receptors, whereas the activity of the SNc-lOFC pathway suppresses grooming via D2 receptors. SNc DA neuron activity thus controls the OCD-like behaviors via both striatal and cortical projections as dual gating. These results support both pharmacological and brain-stimulation treatments for OCD.
Keywords: OCD; SNc; dopaminergic modulation; excessive self-grooming; neural circuits.