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Brain structural correlates of sensory phenomena in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder

Brain structural correlates of sensory phenomena in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder

Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience 40(4): 232-240

Sensory phenomena (SP) are uncomfortable feelings, including bodily sensations, sense of inner tension, "just-right" perceptions, feelings of incompleteness, or "urge-only" phenomena, which have been described to precede, trigger or accompany repetitive behaviours in individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Sensory phenomena are also observed in individuals with tic disorders, and previous research suggests that sensorimotor cortex abnormalities underpin the presence of SP in such patients. However, to our knowledge, no studies have assessed the neural correlates of SP in patients with OCD. We assessed the presence of SP using the University of São Paulo Sensory Phenomena Scale in patients with OCD and healthy controls from specialized units in São Paulo, Brazil, and Barcelona, Spain. All participants underwent a structural magnetic resonance examination, and brain images were examined using DARTEL voxel-based morphometry. We evaluated grey matter volume differences between patients with and without SP and healthy controls within the sensorimotor and premotor cortices. We included 106 patients with OCD and 87 controls in our study. Patients with SP (67% of the sample) showed grey matter volume increases in the left sensorimotor cortex in comparison to patients without SP and bilateral sensorimotor cortex grey matter volume increases in comparison to controls. No differences were observed between patients without SP and controls. Most patients were medicated. Participant recruitment and image acquisition were performed in 2 different centres. We have identified a structural correlate of SP in patients with OCD involving grey matter volume increases within the sensorimotor cortex; this finding is in agreement with those of tic disorder studies showing that abnormal activity and volume increases within this region are associated with the urges preceding tic onset.

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Accession: 057322935

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PMID: 25652753

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