Cortical thickness abnormalities in trichotillomania: international multi-site analysis

21 Nov 2017

Trichotillomania is a prevalent but often hidden psychiatric condition, characterized by repetitive hair pulling. The aim of this study was to confirm or refute structural brain abnormalities in trichotillomania by pooling all available global data. De-identified MRI scans were pooled by contacting authors of previous studies. Cortical thickness and sub-cortical volumes were compared between patients and controls. Patients (n = 76) and controls (n = 41) were well-matched in terms of demographic characteristics. Trichotillomania patients showed excess cortical thickness in a cluster maximal at right inferior frontal gyrus, unrelated to symptom severity. No significant sub-cortical volume differences were detected in the regions of interest. Morphometric changes in the right inferior frontal gyrus appear to play a central role in the pathophysiology of trichotillomania, and to be trait in nature. The findings are distinct from other impulsive-compulsive disorders (OCD, ADHD, gambling disorder), which have typically been associated with reduced, rather than increased, cortical thickness. Future work should examine sub-cortical and cerebellar morphology using analytic approaches designed for this purpose, and should also characterize grey matter densities/volumes.