Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating disorder that afflicts 1% to 3% of youth worldwide. Previous research suggests that dysfunction of the frontal-striatal-thalamic circuitry (FSTC) underlies OCD symptoms. Our pilot study demonstrates that 15 adolescents with OCD (mostly medicated) in comparison with 12 controls show significantly lower functional connectivity (associated with higher OCD severity) in multiple FSTC segments. To build on these findings, 25 medication-free adolescents with OCD (ages 12-17) and 25 matched healthy controls will be evaluated using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (R-fMRI) ('functional connectivity") and high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) ("structural connectivity") using advanced data acquisition strategies that are being developed at the University of Minnesota for the NIH-funded Human Connectome Project. All OCD and control participants will undergo R-fMRI and HARDI scans at baseline and 12 weeks later. OCD participants will receive 12 weeks of sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), to treat OCD symptoms. This approach will allow us to examine sertraline effects on FSTC in adolescents with OCD. We hope to identify specific connections in the FSTC that normalize with SSRI treatment. We will also investigate the relations between functional and structural connectivity in each segment of FSTC and correlate OCD dimensions and functional connectivity measures.

Public Health Relevance

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious illness that afflicts 1% to 3% of youth worldwide. The goal of this investigation is to explore brain connections in adolescents with OCD compared to healthy adolescents using advanced brain imaging techniques. The adolescents with OCD will be treated with 12 weeks of sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, to determine if abnormalities in brain connections normalize with sertraline.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Interventions Committee for Disorders Involving Children and Their Families (ITVC)
Program Officer
Grabb, Margaret C
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Bernstein, Gail A; Mueller, Bryon A; Schreiner, Melinda Westlund et al. (2016) Abnormal striatal resting-state functional connectivity in adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry Res 247:49-56