OCD-like behavior linked to genetic mutation

February 22, 2017 by Kristin Samuelson
Flickr photo by Benjamin Watson

A new Northwestern Medicine study found evidence suggesting how neural dysfunction in a certain region of the brain can lead to obsessive and repetitive behaviors much like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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 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 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 February 21 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 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.

The study is titled, "Complete Disruption of the Kainate Receptor Gene Family Results in Corticostriatal Dysfunction in Mice."

Explore further: Gene loss creates eating disorder-related behaviors in mice

More information: Jian Xu et al. Complete Disruption of the Kainate Receptor Gene Family Results in Corticostriatal Dysfunction in Mice, Cell Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.01.073

Related Stories

Gene loss creates eating disorder-related behaviors in mice

April 9, 2015
Building on their discovery of a gene linked to eating disorders in humans, a team of researchers at the University of Iowa has now shown that loss of the gene in mice leads to several behavioral abnormalities that resemble ...

When good habits go bad: Neuroscientist seeks roots of obsessive behavior, motion disorders

February 16, 2013
Learning, memory and habits are encoded in the strength of connections between neurons in the brain, the synapses. These connections aren't meant to be fixed, they're changeable, or plastic.

Gambling and obsessive-compulsive behaviors linked

February 16, 2015
Problem gambling and obsessive-compulsive behaviors share genetic as well as behavioral links, according to a study by researchers at Yale, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. ...

Brain receptor acts as switch for OCD symptoms in mice

July 15, 2016
A single chemical receptor in the brain is responsible for a range of symptoms in mice that are reminiscent of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to a Duke University study that appears online in the journal Biological ...

Multitasking hunger neurons also control compulsive behaviors

March 6, 2015
In the absence of food, neurons that normally control appetite initiate complex, repetitive behaviors seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anorexia nervosa, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine ...

Eating disorder gene alters feeding and behavior in female mice

October 13, 2016
Giving mice a gene mutation linked to eating disorders in people causes feeding and behavior abnormalities similar to symptoms often seen in patients with eating disorders. Only female mice are affected by the gene mutation, ...

Recommended for you

Children with fragile X syndrome have a bias toward threatening emotion

August 23, 2017
Anxiety occurs at high rates in children with fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common form of inherited intellectual disability. Children with co-occurring anxiety tend to fare worse, but it can be hard to identify in infants. ...

So-called "bright girl effect" does not last into adulthood

August 23, 2017
The notion that young females limit their own progress based on what they believe about their intelligence—called the "bright girl effect"—does not persist into adulthood, according to new research from Case Western Reserve ...

Like adults, children show bias in attributing mental states to others

August 22, 2017
Young children are more likely to attribute mental states to characters that belong to the same group as them relative to characters that belong to an outside group, according to findings published in Psychological Science, ...

High moral reasoning associated with increased activity in the human brain's reward system

August 22, 2017
Individuals who have a high level of moral reasoning show increased activity in the brain's frontostriatal reward system, both during periods of rest and while performing a sequential risk taking and decision making task ...

Yoga and meditation improve mind-body health and stress resilience

August 22, 2017
Many people report positive health effects from practicing yoga and meditation, and experience both mental and physical benefits from these practices. However, we still have much to learn about how exactly these practices ...

Wealth disparity and family income impact the brain development of female youth

August 22, 2017
Female teenagers living in neighbourhoods with wide salary gaps and a low-income household show changes to their brain maturation that could indicate a higher risk of developing mental illness in adulthood, suggests a recently ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.