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July 10, 2015Posted in: TS + Tagged:

Brain Scans Tell Us If CBT Can Help With OCD

It is estimated that between 1-2% of the population experiences Obsessive Compulsive disorder or OCD at some point in their lifetime. Among people with TS, approximately 60% also have OCD. Symptoms of OCD include recurrent thoughts or mental images (obsessions); and compulsions, acts aimed at reducing anxiety even if they are not logically connected with the anxiety or fear. There are many types of obsessions and compulsions, too many to list here. Examples of obsessions include fear of germs or wanting everything to be “just right”. Compulsions could be repeated hand-washing, repetitive counting or constantly checking that you locked the door.

One of the most effective treatments for OCD is a CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. You can read more about this therapy here: https://www.tourette.ca/tourette-blog/pub:49/Is-CBT-the-Right-Treatment-for-Your-OCD

One of the challenges with this treatment is that it doesn’t always work. On top of that, it is hard to know in advance whether the treatment will be successful; even if you’re a neuroscientist – a 2011 study found that it was hard to predict whether CBT would work for adult with OCD.

This may change soon. Researchers from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior found that brain scans can help predict whether CBT will help a person’s OCD. This is significant as CBT is time-consuming and can be costly. Furthermore, there are medications that can be used to treat OCD instead.

While CBT can take several months, these brain scans only take a mere 15 minutes! The scans show the level of brain networks’ connectivity. UCLA researchers found that those with more efficient brain connectivity prior to CBT had worsening of symptoms after CBT treatment.

In the future, these new findings will hopefully help to reduce the number of people with OCD who undergo CBT only to relapse later.


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