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The British Journal of Psychiatry

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 195  |  Issue: 5  |  Page No.: 393 - 402

Voxel-wise meta-analysis of grey matter changes in obsessive-compulsive disorder

J Radua and D. Mataix Cols



Specific cortico-striato-thalamic circuits are hypothesised to mediate the symptoms of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), but structural neuroimaging studies have been inconsistent.


To conduct a meta-analysis of published and unpublished voxel-based morphometry studies in OCD.


Twelve data-sets comprising 401 people with OCD and 376 healthy controls met inclusion criteria. A new improved voxel-based meta-analytic method, signed differential mapping (SDM), was developed to examine regions of increased and decreased grey matter volume in the OCD group v. control group.


No between-group differences were found in global grey matter volumes. People with OCD had increased regional grey matter volumes in bilateral lenticular nuclei, extending to the caudate nuclei, as well as decreased volumes in bilateral dorsal medial frontal/anterior cingulate gyri. A descriptive analysis of quartiles, a sensitivity analysis as well as analyses of subgroups further confirmed these findings. Meta-regression analyses showed that studies that included individuals with more severe OCD were significantly more likely to report increased grey matter volumes in the basal ganglia. No effect of current antidepressant treatment was observed.


The results support a dorsal prefrontal–striatal model of the disorder and raise the question of whether functional alterations in other brain regions commonly associated with OCD, such as the orbitofrontal cortex, may reflect secondary compensatory strategies. Whether the reported differences between participants with OCD and controls precede the onset of the symptoms and whether they are specific to OCD remains to be established.

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