Scientific article
Open access

Neuronal activity correlated with checking behaviour in the subthalamic nucleus of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder

CollaboratorsPollak, Pierre
Published inBrain, vol. 136, no. Pt 1, p. 304-317
Publication date2013

Doubt, and its behavioural correlate, checking, is a normal phenomenon of human cognition that is dramatically exacerbated in obsessive-compulsive disorder. We recently showed that deep brain stimulation in the associative-limbic area of the subthalamic nucleus, a central core of the basal ganglia, improved obsessive-compulsive disorder. To understand the physiological bases of symptoms in such patients, we recorded the activity of individual neurons in the therapeutic target during surgery while subjects performed a cognitive task that gave them the possibility of unrestricted repetitive checking after they had made a choice. We postulated that the activity of neurons in this region could be influenced by doubt and checking behaviour. Among the 63/87 task-related neurons recorded in 10 patients, 60% responded to various combinations of instructions, delay, movement or feedback, thus highlighting their role in the integration of different types of information. In addition, task-related activity directed towards decision-making increased during trials with checking in comparison with those without checking. These results suggest that the associative-limbic subthalamic nucleus plays a role in doubt-related repetitive thoughts. Overall, our results not only provide new insight into the role of the subthalamic nucleus in human cognition but also support the fact that subthalamic nucleus modulation by deep brain stimulation reduced compulsive behaviour in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • Adult
  • Compulsive Behavior/physiopathology/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons/physiology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder/physiopathology/psychology
  • Subthalamic Nucleus/physiopathology
Citation (ISO format)
BURBAUD, Pierre et al. Neuronal activity correlated with checking behaviour in the subthalamic nucleus of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In: Brain, 2013, vol. 136, n° Pt 1, p. 304–317. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws306
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0006-8950

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