- The new research has identified areas of the brain involved in obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
- The researchers analyzed brain scans of nearly 500 people with and without OCD.
- They found that, compared to those without OCD, people with a condition had more activity in brain areas involved in error detection, but less activity in the brain areas that help prevent mistakes.
- This discovery could lay the foundations for a better treatment of ODS, the authors said.
A new study that analyzes the brains of nearly 500 people can provide clues to help experts better cure obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mental health characterized by uncontrolled, recurring thoughts and behavior.
The researchers combined the results of 10 previous studies that compared people with and without OCD. In these studies, the participants underwent functional MRI scans that saw their brain activity during two functions: error processing and inhibitory control, a process that allows control of behavior and thoughts.
Their results, published on Thursday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, showed that – compared to people with no condition – OCD people had greater brain activity involved in error detection, but less activity in the brain areas involved in stopping actions, according to the University of Michigan research statement.
"These results show that, in OCD, the brain is too responsive to errors and too little to interrupt the signals," said research scientist at the University of Michigan, Doctor of Science, Luke Norman, chief author of the study.
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The research focused on the cingul-operative network, a collection of brain areas that act as a "monitor" for errors and the need to prevent actions, the statement added. The new analysis suggests that the brain of patients with DOD can stumble into compulsive "loops", the authors of the study write. Even if the brain image of OCD thought or behavior is wrong, there may be no power to stop it.
In general, those with OCD have no control over their obsessions (unwanted thoughts that cause pain) and forcing (behaviors that respond in response to those obsessions), even if they recognize those thoughts and behaviors are excessive, according to the National Institute for Mental Health . (For example, a common obsession is a fear of bacteria or contamination, and the usual forcing involves excessive washing or cleaning.)
The reasons for OCD are still unknown, but the new research suggests that specific abnormalities for processing errors deep in the brain could play a role in this condition.
Experts doubted that these abnormalities were included in OCD, says Norman in the statement, but this was not "convincingly displayed", as individual studies had a small number of participants.
"By combining the data from ten studies and nearly 500 patients and healthy volunteers, we could see how brain circuits that have long been thought to be crucial to OCD are really involved in the disorder," he added.
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The new research does not prove that the observed brain differences in patients with SDS are definite cause of the condition. The data used by researchers does not show whether these differences can be the cause or result of the OCD, explained in the university statement.
"More work is needed to improve our understanding of how these performance and brain function abnormalities relate to OCD symptoms," the authors write in the paper.
But knowing more about the brain of patients with DOD can help future researchers focus on better treatment.
For now, treatment with ODS usually involves psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both, but some patients continue to fight symptoms, according to NIMH.
read more: 5 myths about OCD that need to stop believing
"In Cases of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD, we are working to help patients identify, resist and resist their coercion … but it works only in about half of patients," the professor of psychiatry from the University of Michigan, Kate Fitzgerald, co-author of the new paper, said in a statement. "Through such findings, we hope that we can make CBT more effective or to conduct new treatments."
"This is not a deep, dark problem of behavior," she added. "OCD is a medical problem and not a guilty one. We can study brain imaging just like heart specialists who study the ECG of their patients – and we can use this information to improve people's care and life with OCD ".
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