Emotional Processing in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of 25 Functional Neuroimaging Studies

  • Anders Lillevik Thorsen
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Anders Lillevik Thorsen, M.Sc., OCD team, Haukeland University Hospital, P.O. 1400, 5021 Bergen, Norway.
    Affiliations
    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) team, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

    Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
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  • Pernille Hagland
    Affiliations
    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) team, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

    Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
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  • Joaquim Radua
    Affiliations
    FIDMAG Germanes Hospitalàries, Centre for Biomedical Research in Mental Health Network (CIBERSAM), Barcelona, Spain

    Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

    Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
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  • David Mataix-Cols
    Affiliations
    Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Gerd Kvale
    Affiliations
    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) team, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

    Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
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  • Bjarne Hansen
    Affiliations
    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) team, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

    Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
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  • Odile A. van den Heuvel
    Affiliations
    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) team, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

    Department of Anatomy & Neurosciences, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Department of Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Published:February 03, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.01.009

      Abstract

      Background

      Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience aversive emotions in response to obsessions, motivating avoidance and compulsive behaviors. However, there is considerable ambiguity regarding the brain circuitry involved in emotional processing in OCD, especially whether activation is altered in the amygdala.

      Methods

      We conducted a systematic literature review and performed a meta-analysis—seed-based d mapping—of 25 whole-brain neuroimaging studies (including 571 patients and 564 healthy control subjects) using functional magnetic resonance imaging or positron emission tomography, comparing brain activation of patients with OCD and healthy control subjects during presentation of emotionally valenced versus neutral stimuli. Meta-regressions were employed to investigate possible moderators.

      Results

      Patients with OCD, compared with healthy control subjects, showed increased activation in the bilateral amygdala, right putamen, orbitofrontal cortex extending into the anterior cingulate and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and middle temporal and left inferior occipital cortices during emotional processing. Right amygdala hyperactivation was most pronounced in unmedicated patients. Symptom severity was related to increased activation in the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortices and precuneus. Greater comorbidity with mood and anxiety disorders was associated with higher activation in the right amygdala, putamen, and insula as well as with lower activation in the left amygdala and right ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

      Conclusions

      Patients with OCD show increased emotional processing-related activation in limbic, frontal, and temporal regions. Previous mixed evidence regarding the role of the amygdala in OCD has likely been influenced by patient characteristics (such as medication status) and low statistical power.

      Keywords

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