KUNMING, CHINA — Chinese researchers have found that a similar mechanism may lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behaviors both in humans and dogs.
Like excessive hand-washing in some OCD patients, domestic dogs also exhibit several OCD-like behaviors such as continuous circling. Researchers from Kunming Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences screened two dog breeds, namely the Belgian Malinois (Belgian Shepherd Dog) and Kunming Dog, a hybrid dog usually trained for search and rescue.
The researchers analyzed the genetic sequence of 10 dogs presenting circling behavior and 10 normal dogs from each breed, and identified 11 candidate genes related to OCD-like behaviors. Further analysis showed these dog genes overlap significantly with genes identified in human OCD studies.
They also found that two OCD risk genes PPP2R2B and ADAMTSL3 affected the density and morphology of dendritic spines. A dendritic spine is a small protrusion from a neuron’s dendrite, and dendrites are the segments of the neuron that receive stimulation in order for the cell to become active.
The researchers said that changes in the dendritic spine may underlie some common biological and physiological pathways shared between humans and dogs.
They noted that their study revealed an unprecedented level of convergence in OCD shared between humans and dogs, suggesting that domestic dogs can be used as a model species for the study of human diseases including OCD.
The study has been published in the journal Science Bulletin.