Rotge JY, Aouizerate B, Amestoy V, Lambrecq V, Langbour N, Nguyen TH, Dovero S, Cardoit L, Tignol J, Bioulac B, Burbaud P, Guehl D
Transl Psychiatry 2012;2:e161
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a frequent psychiatric disorder characterized by repetitive intrusive thoughts and severe anxiety, leading to compulsive behaviors. Although medical treatment is effective in most cases, resistance is observed in about 30% of patients. In this context, deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the caudate or subthalamic nuclei has been recently proposed with encouraging results. However, some patients were unimproved or exhibited awkward side effects. Therefore, exploration of new targets for DBS remains critical in OCD. In the latter, functional imaging studies revealed overactivity in the limbic and associative cortico-subcortical loops encompassing the thalamus. However, the role of the thalamus in the genesis of repetitive behaviors and related anxiety is unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that pharmacological-induced overactivity of the medial thalamus could give rise to abnormal behaviors close to that observed in OCD. We modulated the ventral anterior (VA) and medial dorsal (MD) nuclei activity by in situ bicuculline (GABA(A) antagonist) microinjections in subhuman primates and assessed their pharmacological-induced behavior. Bicuculline injections within the VA caused significant repetitive and time-consuming motor acts whereas those performed within the MD induced symptoms of dysautonomic dysregulation along with abnormal vocalizations and marked motor hypoactivity. These findings suggest that overactivation of the VA and MD nuclei of the thalamus provokes compulsive-like behaviors and neurovegetative manifestations usually associated with the feeling of anxiety in OCD patients. In further research, this translational approach should allow us to test the effectiveness and side effects of these thalamic nuclei DBS in monkey and perhaps, in a second step, to propose a transfer of this technique to severely disabled OCD patients.