Neuroscience

When cognitive control shuts down

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Science  13 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6227, pp. 1214
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6227.1214-g

Photos of untidy rooms were used to elicit OCD symptoms in the subjects of this study

IMAGE: © PETER MAHER/ALAMY

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) cannot control their thoughts, engage in compulsive actions and perform repetitive behaviors to reduce their anxiety. To better understand the neurological basis of these symptoms, Banca et al. used individually tailored stimuli to provoke and alleviate symptoms in people with OCD while scanning their brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging. When provoked, the caudate-prefrontal brain circuits involved in cognitive control and goal-directed behavior shut down in OCD patients. This was accompanied by hyperactivation of a brain region called the putamen, which controls repetitive behavior. These insights may pave the way for novel therapeutic approaches to treating OCD.

Brain 138, 798 (2015).

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