Brain Structural Correlates of Subclinical Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms in Healthy Children

Maria Suñol, Oren Contreras-Rodríguez, Dídac Macià, Gerard Martínez-Vilavella, Ignacio Martínez-Zalacaín, Marta Subirà, Jesús Pujol, Jordi Sunyer, Carles Soriano-Mas

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21 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Objective Subclinical obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms are frequently observed in children and have been reported to predict a subsequent diagnosis of OC disorder (OCD). Therefore, identifying the putative neurobiological signatures of such risk is crucial, because it would allow for the characterization of the underpinnings of OCD without the interfering effects of chronicity, medication, or comorbidities, especially when interpreted within the context of OCD clinical heterogeneity and taking into account normal neurodevelopmental changes. The present study aimed to identify the brain volumetric features associated with subclinical OC symptoms and the potential modulatory effects of sex and age in a large sample of healthy children. Method Two hundred fifty-five healthy children were assessed using the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory–Child Version and underwent a brain structural magnetic resonance examination. The relation between total and symptom-specific scores and regional gray and white matter (GM and WM) volumes was evaluated. Participants were grouped according to sex and age (younger versus older) to assess the effect of these factors on symptom–brain morphometry associations. Results Ordering symptoms were negatively related to GM volumes in the ventral caudate. Hoarding symptoms were positively associated with GM and WM volumes in the left inferior frontal gyrus, and obsessing symptoms correlated negatively with GM and WM volumes in the right temporal pole. Doubt-checking symptoms correlated positively with WM volumes in the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus and the corpus callosum. Sex and age modulated some of these associations. Conclusion Subclinical OC symptoms are associated with specific brain volumetric features, which could be considered potential neural signatures of increased risk for OCD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-47
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • brain morphometry
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • subclinical symptoms
  • symptom heterogeneity


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