Obsessive-compulsive disorder, brain activity linked: study

July 18th, 2008 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

London, July 18 (IANS) Researchers in Britain have discovered that measuring specific activities of the brain could help the early and more precise detection of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Current diagnosis of the disorder, popularly known as OCD, is based on a clinical interview that often occurs only after the disorder has set in. Now, for the first time, University of Cambridge scientists have associated functional changes in the brain with familial risk for the disorder

OCD is a debilitating condition that affects two to three percent of the population at some point of life. Patients suffer from recurrent intrusive thoughts(obsessions) that are distressing and hard to suppress.

Examples include fears of contamination or that something terrible will happen to a loved one. They also suffer from repetitive rituals(compulsions), which are often designed to neutralise these thoughts. These symptoms cause distress and can occupy hours during the day,interfering with quality of life and the ability to work.

Although OCD tends to run in families, the genetic factors responsible forthis inheritable affliction are not known. Genes may pose a risk for OCD by influencing how the brain develops.

In the new study, researchers used fMRI to measure brainactivity in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), involved in decision-making and behaviour.

Samuel Chamberlain, who led the study, said: “Impaired function in brain areas controlling flexible behaviour probably predisposes people to developing the compulsive rigid symptoms that are characteristic of OCD.”

The findings of the study have appeared in the latest edition of the journal Science.

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