Brain structure tied to obsessive-compulsive symptoms in children

New research from a Spanish team of researchers used MRI to explore whether subclinical obsessive-compulsive symptoms in children could be related to the brain’s structure.

The study was published Dec. 17 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Researchers administered a questionnaire related to obsessive-compulsive symptoms to 255 children between 8 and 12 years old without a diagnosis of mental health disorders. Questions centered around looking for symmetry, repetitive checking and negative and disturbing thoughts.

The research team then collected MRIs from the participants to compare questionnaire results to each child’s cerebral anatomy.

"When comparing the results of the questionnaire to the cerebral anatomy, we found out that the different symptoms observed, in spite of their mild character, could be associated to specific anatomical characteristics,” said Carles Soriano-Mas, PhD, with the department of psychiatry at Bellvitge University Hospital in Barcelona, and colleagues. “Interestingly, these same anatomical characteristics have also been observed in patients with more severe symptoms, with a diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

The team found obsessive-compulsive symptoms were manifest in certain physical characteristics. The researchers suggested such findings could help monitor children who may have such mental health issues.