Brain variations may help treat OCD

Researchers have discovered that identifying brain variations may help physicians predict who would respond positively to surgeries to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

IANS| Last Updated: Dec 27, 2014, 12:50 PM IST

New York: Researchers have discovered that identifying brain variations may help physicians predict who would respond positively to surgeries to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a debilitating disorder characterised by repetitive intentional behaviours and intrusive thoughts.

Features of the anterior cingulate cortex (part of the brain that plays a role in a wide variety of functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate) structure and connectivity seemed to predict whether a patient would respond to the surgical treatment, the findings showed.

"These results suggest that the variability seen in individual responses to a highly consistent, stereotyped procedure may be due to neuroanatomical variation in the patients," said Garrett Banks from Columbia University, New York.

The dorsal anterior cingulotomy is a surgical procedure to treat OCD and involves causing damage to a region of the brain that is believed to play a role in the neural network that causes OCD.

"These variations may allow us to predict which patients are most likely to respond to cingulotomy, thereby refining our ability to individualize this treatment for refractory psychiatric disorders," the study added.

Around 10 to 20 percent of patients have refractory OCD which does not respond to medication or therapy to achieve symptom relief and therefore the patients may be candidates for surgical treatment.

For the study, the researchers looked to identify neuroanatomical characteristics on pre-operative imaging that might differentiate patients whose OCD would respond to dorsal anterior cingulotomy.

Their small but significant study analysed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences of patients. Of the 15 patients, eight (53 percent) responded to the procedure.

The study was published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.