The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

The caudate nucleus in obsessive–compulsive disorder. Reduced metabolism following treatment with paroxetine: a PET study

Elsebet Steno  Hansen  a1, Steen  Hasselbalch  a2, Ian  Law  a2 and Tom G.  Bolwig  a1 c1
a1 Department of Psychiatry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
a2 Neurobiology Research Unit, Department of Neurology and The Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark


Several neuroimaging studies of patients with OCD have pointed to basal ganglia and the frontal cortical regions being relevant for an understanding of the pathophysiology and therapy of OCD. In a search for the neural substrate underlying the therapeutic action of paroxetine in the therapy of OCD we measured regional glucose metabolism in a PET study of 20 OCD patients before and after at least 3 months of treatment. We used 18-fluoro-deoxyglucose PET-scanning to measure regional cerebral glucose metabolic rate (rCMRglc) in 20 non-depressed patients fulfilling DSM-IV criteria for OCD. Patients were studied before and after 12–20 wk of treatment with the serotonin re-uptake inhibitor paroxetine. Clinical assessment rating with the Yale–Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) was performed before the first and after the second study. The PET data was analysed regionally using statistical parametric mapping (SPM-96). A clinical improvement was indicated by a mean decrease of 55% in the Y-BOCS score. There was no difference in global cerebral metabolism before and after treatment whereas a post-treatment reduction in normalized rCMRglc was found in the right caudate nucleus. This finding also showed a significant positive correlation with symptom severity. Our results support hypotheses regarding a malfunction of the cortico-striato-thalamic system in the pathophysiology of OCD and particularly point to the caudate nucleus playing an important role for the therapeutic action of paroxetine in the treatment of OCD.

(Received June 20 2001)
(Reviewed August 28 2001)
(Revised October 7 2001)
(Accepted October 10 2001)

Key Words: Cerebral glucose metabolism; nucleus caudatus; obsessive–compusive disorder; paroxetine; positron emission tomography; serotonin reuptake inhibition.

c1 Correspondence: Dr T. G. Bolwig, Department of Psychiatry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark. Tel.: +45 35 45 62 33 Fax: + 45 35 26 04 13 E-mail: