Neural response in obsessive-compulsive washers depends on individual fit of triggers

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Background Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have highly idiosyncratic triggers. To fully understand which role this idiosyncrasy plays in the neurobiological mechanisms behind OCD, it is necessary to elucidate the impact of individualization regarding the applied investigation methods. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study explores the neural correlates of contamination/washing-related OCD with a highly individualized symptom provocation paradigm. Additionally, it is the first study to directly compare individualized and standardized symptom provocation. Methods Nineteen patients with washing compulsions created individual OCD hierarchies, which later served as instructions to photograph their own individualized stimulus sets. The patients and 19 case-by-case matched healthy controls participated in a symptom provocation fMRI experiment with individualized and standardized stimulus sets created for each patient. Results OCD patients compared to healthy controls displayed stronger activation in the basal ganglia (nucleus accumbens, nucleus caudatus, pallidum) for individualized symptom provocation. Using standardized symptom provocation, this group comparison led to stronger activation in the nucleus caudatus. The direct comparison of between-group effects for both symptom provocation approaches revealed stronger activation of the orbitofronto-striatal network for individualized symptom provocation. Conclusions The present study provides insight into the differential impact of individualized and standardized symptom provocation on the orbitofronto-striatal network of OCD washers. Behavioral and neural responses imply a higher symptom-specificity of individualized symptom provocation. © 2013 Baioui, Pilgramm, Merz, Walter, Vaitl and Stark.




Baioui, A., Pilgramm, J., Merz, C. J., Walter, B., Vaitl, D., & Stark, R. (2013). Neural response in obsessive-compulsive washers depends on individual fit of triggers. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, (APR 2013).

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