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Microstructural alterations in white matter are evident in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) both in adult and paediatric populations. Paediatric patients go through the process of maturation and thus may undergo different pathophysiology than adult OCD. Findings from studies in paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder have been inconsistent, possibly due to their small sample size or heterogeneous populations. The aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of white matter structures in paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder and their correlation with clinical features. Based on PRISMA guidelines, we performed a systematic search on diffusion tensor imaging studies that reported fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, or axial diffusivity alterations between paediatric patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder and healthy controls using voxel-based analysis, or tract-based spatial statistics. We identified fifteen relevant studies. Most studies reported changes predominantly in the corpus callosum, cingulum, arcuate fasciculus, uncinate fasciculus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, corticospinal tract, forceps minor and major, and the cerebellum in paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder. These alterations included increased and decreased fractional anisotropy and radial diffusivity, and increased mean and axial diffusivity in different white matter tracts. These changes were associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. Moreover, specific genetic polymorphisms were linked with cerebellar white matter changes in paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder. White matter changes are widespread in paediatric OCD patients. These changes are often associated with symptoms however there are controversies in the direction of changes in some tracts.

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Imaging Behav

Publication Date





343 - 366


Diffusion tensor imaging, Obsessive–compulsive disorder, Paediatric, White matter, Adult, Humans, Child, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, White Matter, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Anisotropy, Brain