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Understanding of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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In a new development to understand the neurobiology of OCD, scientists at University of Cambridge's Department of Psychiatry used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to evaluate brain activity in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). It is located in the frontal lobes and helps in decision making and behavior. The scientists have observed that people with OCD and their close family members show under-activation of brain areas responsible for preventing repetitive behavior. The normal controls and OCD patients participated in the study.     They were asked to look at superimposed pictures of a house and a face.   The participants were asked to employ trial and error to find out whether the house or face was the correct target.

They pressed a button to indicate which image they believed to be the target and response as  'correct' or 'incorrect' flashed on the screen. After the correct target had been identified six times continuously, it changed so the participant had to learn again. The fMRI was used to monitor their patterns of brain activity throughout. Later comparison of fMRI images of their brain activity throughout showed under-activation in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and other brain areas in both the OCD patients and their family members.

The technique could be developed for early detection of risk of OCD development.   Currently, the methods used involve interviewing the patient and OCD is detected after its onset (Science Daily, 2008).   Cognitive-behavioral approaches to OCD: Antony & Stein (2008) discuss two psychological models related to the onset of OCD; these are behavioral and cognitive models. The Behavioural model is based on learning theory, the applied principle of conditional reinforcement and punishment besides the two-stage theory of fear and avoidance.

The behavior theory of OCD explains that normal intrusive thoughts, impulses, and images become associated with anxiety that has failed to subside (Swinson, 2001). The behavioral theories hypothesize that a neutral event evokes fear when associated with the offending stimulus.

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