Significant interest in the mechanistic underpinnings of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has fueled research on the neural origins of compulsive behaviors. Converging clinical and preclinical evidence suggests that abnormal repetitive behaviors are driven by dysfunction in cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical (CSTC) circuits. These findings suggest that compulsive behaviors arise, in part, from aberrant communication between lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorsal striatum. An important body of work focused on the role of this network in OCD has been instrumental to progress in the field. Disease models focused primarily on these regions, however, fail to capture an important aspect of the disorder: affective dysregulation. High levels of anxiety are extremely prevalent in OCD, as is comorbidity with major depressive disorder. Furthermore, deficits in processing rewards and abnormalities in processing emotional stimuli are suggestive of aberrant encoding of affective information. Accordingly, OCD can be partially characterized as a disease in which behavioral selection is corrupted by exaggerated or dysregulated emotional states. This suggests that the networks producing OCD symptoms likely expand beyond traditional lateral OFC and dorsal striatum circuit models, and highlights the need to cast a wider net in our investigation of the circuits involved in generating and sustaining OCD symptoms. Here, we address the emerging role of medial OFC, amygdala, and ventral tegmental area projections to the ventral striatum (VS) in OCD pathophysiology. The VS receives strong innervation from these affect and reward processing regions, and is therefore poised to integrate information crucial to the generation of compulsive behaviors. Though it complements functions of dorsal striatum and lateral OFC, this corticolimbic-VS network is less commonly explored as a potential source of the pathology underlying OCD. In this review, we discuss this network’s potential role as a locus of OCD pathology and effective treatment.

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Front. Syst. Neurosci., 17 December 2015 |