Background Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder (SPD) is a relatively common psychiatric condition whose neurobiological basis is unknown. Aims To probe the function of fronto-striatal circuitry in SPD. Method Eighteen participants with SPD and 15 matched healthy controls undertook an executive planning task (Tower of London) during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Activation during planning was compared between groups using region of interest and whole-brain permutation cluster approaches. Results The SPD group exhibited significant functional underactivation in a cluster encompassing bilateral dorsal striatum (maximal in right caudate), bilateral anterior cingulate and right medial frontal regions. These abnormalities were, for the most part, outside the dorsal planning network typically activated by executive planning tasks. Conclusions Abnormalities of neural regions involved in habit formation, action monitoring and inhibition appear involved in the pathophysiology of SPD. Implications exist for understanding the basis of excessive grooming and the relationship of SPD with putative obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.
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© The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016.
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