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Functional connectivity of the raphe nucleus as a predictor of the response to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in obsessive-compulsive disorder


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are first-line pharmacological agents for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, because nearly half of patients show insufficient SSRI responses, serotonergic dysfunction in heterogeneous OCD patients should be investigated for precision medicine. We aimed to determine whether functional connectivity (FC) of the raphe nucleus (RN), the major source of most serotonergic neurons, was altered in OCD patients and could predict the SSRI response. A total of 102 medication-free OCD patients and 101 matched healthy control (HC) subjects participated in resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Among them, 54 OCD patients were treated with SSRIs for 16 weeks, resulting in 26 responders and 28 nonresponders. Seed-based whole brain FC with the RN as a seed region was compared between the OCD and HC groups, as well as between SSRI responders and nonresponders. FC cluster values showing significant group differences were used to investigate factors correlated with symptomatic severity before treatment and predictive of SSRI response. Compared to HCs, OCD patients exhibited significantly larger FC between the RN and temporal cortices including the middle temporal gyrus (MTG), paracingulate gyrus, amygdala, hippocampus, putamen, thalamus, and brain stem. Greater RN-left MTG FC was positively correlated with OC symptom severity at baseline. In addition, larger FC of the RN-left MTG was also found in SSRI nonresponders compared to responders, which was a significant predictor of SSRI response after 16 weeks. The FC of RN may reflect the neurobiological underpinning of OCD and could aid future precision medicine as a differential brain-based biomarker.

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Correspondence to Jun Soo Kwon.

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