New insights into obsessive-compulsive disorder

1st Dec 2017

A common symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder is the overwhelming need to carry out excessive-checking. However, there is a lack of understanding as to the neural mechanisms that cause this debilitating symptom.

Researchers investigated checking behaviour following excitotoxic lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens core and dorsal striatum, brain regions considered to be of relevance to obsessive–compulsive disorder.

In order to examine these cognitive processes and to gain a deeper understanding as to the how and why this behaviour presents itself in this disorder, the researchers have developed a novel operant paradigm for rats.

They found that lesions in both brain areas, the medial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens core, increased checking behaviour. Lesions in the former region seemed to affect mostly functional checking, whereas the latter increased both functional and non-functional checking responses.

The results yielded from this study suggests that the medial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens core are important in the control of checking behaviour and that damage to these structures may increase excessive checking behaviour in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

d’Angelo, C., Eagle, D., Coman, C. and Robbins, T. (2017). Role of the medial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens in an operant model of checking behaviour and uncertainty. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 1, p.239821281773340.

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