Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Sophie Akkermans (Donders series 349)

10 January 2019

Promotor: prof.dr. J. Buitelaar, co-promotor: dr. D. van Rooij

The role of the frontostriatal circuitry in impulsive and compulsive syndromes

Disorders emerging in childhood such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome (TS) often occur together. Some of these also form a risk for developing substance use habits later in life. Notably, these conditions show similarities in the manifestation of impulsive and compulsive behaviours and have all been associated with abnormalities in the frontostriatal brain circuits. To eventually improve diagnostics and treatment for these disorders, it is crucial to disentangle their shared and unique neural underpinnings. Sophie Akkermans’ research contributes to this aim by comparing the frontostriatal circuitry of closely related disorders side by side (ADHD and TS; OCD and ASD), using the same magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods. In addition, she zoomed in on the overlap between disorders in impulsive and compulsive behaviour. By, for example, examining compulsivity across the disorders OCD and ASD (without distinguishing between these diagnostic labels), she uncovered a new neural correlate that crossed the boundaries of the disorders. Heightened crosstalk between a striatal and a premotor area was associated with more severe compulsive/repetitive behaviour.