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New studies show that the brains of OCD patients can get stuck in compulsive loops, and detection can lead to better treatment.



  • New research has revealed areas of the brain involved in obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.

  • Researchers analyzed brain scans of nearly 500 people with and without OCD.

  • They found that, compared with those who do not have OCD, people with a state of more activity in the brain areas involved in the recognition of errors, but less activity in areas of the brain that help stop errors.

  • According to the authors, the detection can lay the foundation for better treatment of OCD.


A new study analyzing the brain of nearly 500 people can provide the key to help professionals better cope with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a state of mental health characterized by uncontrolled, repetitive thoughts and behavior.

The researchers combined the results of 10 previous studies that compared people with OCD and without them. In these studies, participants underwent functional MRI studies that examined their brain activity for two functions: error handling and inhibition control, a process that allows you to control behavior and thoughts.

Their results, published on Thursday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, showed that, compared with people without a condition, people with OCD had more activity in the brain areas involved in error recognition, but Less activity in the brain areas involved in stopping the activity, according to a University of Michigan study report.

“These results indicate that in the OCD, the brain reacts too much to errors and too few to stop the signals,” said Luke Norman, Ph.D., lead researcher at the University of Michigan, in a statement.


Read more:
The most common myths about OCD – and why they are wrong

The study focused on the cingulo-opercular network, a collection of brain zones that acts as a “monitor” for errors and the need for cessation of action, a statement was added. The new analysis suggests that the brains of patients with OCD may be stuck in compulsive loops, the authors of the study wrote. Even if the brain of the flag of thought or behavior of OCD is wrong, it may not be possible to stop it.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with OCD lack control over their obsessive ideas (unwanted thoughts that cause distress) and coercion (behavior that arises in response to these obsessive ideas), even if they recognize that these thoughts and behavior excessive. (For example, a common obsession is microbial fear or infection, and regular compulsions include excessive hand washing or brushing.)

The causes of OCD are still unknown, but a new study suggests that certain anomalies of error handling in the depths of the brain may play a role in this state.

Experts suspected that these anomalies were involved in OCD, Norman said in a statement, but this was not “convincingly shown” because there were a small number of participants in individual studies.

“By combining data from ten studies, as well as about 500 patients and healthy volunteers, we could see how brain circuits, which are supposed to be crucial for OCD, actually participate in the disorder,” he added.

Read more: 13 things you shouldn’t say to someone who is struggling with their mental health

A new study does not prove that the observed differences in the brain in patients with OCD are the determining cause of this condition. The data used by the researchers do not show whether these differences can be the cause or result of OCD, explained in a university statement.

“More work is needed to further understand how these performance disorders and brain dysfunctions are associated with OCD symptoms,” the authors write in the article.

But knowing more about the brains of patients with OCD, one could point out future researchers to the best treatment.

Currently, OCD treatment usually involves psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of them, but some patients continue to struggle with symptoms, according to the NIMH.

Read more: 5 OCD Myths You Need to Stop Believing

"In sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, we work to help patients identify, confront and counter their compulsions … but it only works in about half of the patients," psychiatry professor at the University of Michigan Kate Fitzgerald, co-author of the new article, said in a statement. “Thanks to these findings, we hope that we can make CBT more effective or develop new treatments.”

“This is not some deep dark problem of behavior,” she added. “OCD is a medical problem, not someone’s fault. Using brain imaging, we can study it in the same way that heart specialists study the ECG of their patients, and we can use this information to improve the care and lives of people with OCD. ”

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