A group of scientists has recorded for the first time the brain activity associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (also called OCD, for its acronym). The finding, which could open doors for future treatments, was described in an article in the journal Nature Medicine.
According to Mayo Clinic, a specialized health portal, OCD is characterized by “a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that cause repetitive behaviors (compulsions).” The intrusion of these ideas, which can be very diverse, can lead to a vicious cycle that affects the daily routine and generates anguish in patients with OCD.
Some examples of this disorder are an excessive fear of being contaminated with germs or an obsession with order and symmetry.
The study monitored the brain activity of five patients with OCD in clinical settings and at home. In the process, the researchers also collected things like facial expressions, body movements, heart rate, and self-reported OCD symptoms.
The set of variables allowed them recognize associations between the variety of OCD behaviors and specific neurological signs
However, the team explained that the investigation is still in its early stages, so it is unknown exactly what these signals could mean. For that reason, they plan to continue the trials with more participants and in a longer time.
It should be noted that current OCD treatments (psychotherapy and medications) do not ensure an immediate or long-term cure, but they do help control symptoms so that they significantly interrupt the daily lives of patients.
Also, another promising option for treating neurological conditions is deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices that use electrodes to stimulate certain regions of the brain associated with a disorder. However, in the case of obsessive compulsive disorder, the main drawback is creating a DBS that adapts easily as symptoms change.
“A DBS system that can adjust the intensity of stimulation in response to symptoms can provide more relief and fewer side effects for patients,” David Borton, a biomedical engineer and one of the study authors, said in a statement.
“But to enable that technology we must first identify the biomarkers in the brain associated with OCD symptoms, and that is what we are working to do in this study,” he said.