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'OCD patients develop different brain structure'
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2020.03.03 17:39
  • Updated 2020.03.03 17:39
  • comments 0

Researchers at Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) have published a report that may help identify the causes and processes of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the hospital said Tuesday.

Professors Kwon Jun-soo (left) and Yun Je-yeon

OCD is a disease in which specific thoughts, urges, and scenes repeatedly appear irrespective of one's will and cause the patient to repeat specific actions to solve their anxiety. According to the hospital, 2-3 percent of the world's population experiences the disorder more than once during their lifetime.

The research, jointly conducted by 26 teams in the Enhancing Neuroimaging and Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) consortium, used the brain imaging data of 3,079 brains from around the world to analyze the network of brain structure variation in people with OCD. Professors Kwon Jun-soo and Yun Je-yeon at SNUH led the research in Korea.

The ENIGMA consortium is an international brain research council that brings together researchers in imaging genomics to understand brain structure, function, and disease, based on brain imaging and genetic data.

Regarding the research, the team focused on the individual brain development process as the brain, like other organs, changes over time, and compares the brain structural covariance networks between healthy people and OCD patients.

"The changes are also independent of each part of the brain," the team said. "For example, each brain region, such as the cortex, subcortical region, orbital frontal lobe, striatum, and lower parietal lobe, changes in volume and thickness individually as the brain develops and matures."

The brain structural covariance network quantifies each structural change, the team added.

After analyzing the change patterns, the team classified the results according to the levels of similarity in brain changes. While healthy people were divided into six groups, changes in the OCD subjects were classified into only three groups.

"These results indicate abnormal brain development in people with OCD," the team said. "The study is significant as it brings us one step closer to identifying the cause of OCD and developing therapies."

The team stressed that while brain imaging revealed that the brain structure of OCD patients differs from normal individuals, the cause of the difference was unknown.

Professor Yun, the lead author of the study, also said, "The structural covariance networks of individual brains are known to reflect the development to maturity process of brain structures."

Therefore, the study could be used to identify the pathophysiology of OCD and to select which areas of the brain to touch in stimulation treatments, Yun added.

The results of the research were published in the latest issue of the journal Brain.


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