neural dysfunction in a certain region of the brain can lead to
obsessive and repetitive behaviors much like obsessive compulsive
disorder (OCD) has been discovered by a new Northwestern Medicine study.
Both in humans and in mice, there is a circuit in the brain called
the corticostriatal connection that regulates habitual and repetitive
actions. The study found certain synaptic receptors are important for
the development of this brain circuit. If these receptors are eliminated
in mice, they exhibit obsessive behavior, such as over-grooming.
‘Certain synaptic receptors are important for the development of this brain circuit. If these receptors are eliminated in mice, they exhibit obsessive behavior, such as over-grooming.’
This is the first strong evidence that supports the biological basis
for how these genes that code for these receptors might affect
obsessive or compulsive behaviors in humans. By demonstrating that these
receptors have this role in development, researchers down the line will
have a target to develop treatments for obsessive-compulsive behavior.
"Variations in these receptor genes are associated with human
neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and neuropsychiatric
disorders such as OCD," said lead author Anis Contractor, associate
professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of
Medicine. "People with OCD are known to have abnormalities in function
of corticostriatal circuits."
The study was published in the journal Cell Reports
The findings shed light on the importance of these receptors in the
formation of the corticostriatal circuits, Contractor said.
"A number of studies have found mutations in the kainate receptor
genes that are associated with OCD or other neuropsychiatric and
neurodevelopmental disorders in humans," said Contractor, who also is an
associate professor of neurobiology at the Weinberg College of Arts and
Sciences at Northwestern. "I believe our study, which found that a
mouse with targeted mutations in these genes exhibited OCD-like
behaviors, helps support the current genetic studies on neuropsychiatric
and neurodevelopmental disorders in humans."
The traits of OCD the mice in the study exhibited included
over-grooming, continuously digging in their bedding and consistently
failing a simple alternating-choice test in a maze.