Scientists found that brain scans can predict who responds best to certain treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in the long term. OCD is characterized by recurrent, intrusive, and disturbing thoughts (obsessions)and/or stereotyped recurrent behavior (compulsions).
Left untreated, OCD can be profoundly distressing to the patient and can adversely affect their ability to succeed in school, hold a job or function in society.
One of the most common and effective treatments is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which aims to help patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence their behavior and then work toward eliminating them.
But not all OCD sufferers benefit over the long term: In an estimated 20% of patients, symptoms eventually return after the therapy is complete.
The new study suggests that a certain detail from patients' brain scans could help clinicians identify which people are more likely to relapse after cognitive-behavioral therapy and why.
"The efficiency of brain network connectivity before treatment predicts the worsening of symptoms after treatment," said Jamie Feusner, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study the brains of 17 people, aged 21 to 50 years old, with OCD.
The researchers found that people who had more efficient brain connectivity before they began treatment actually had worse long-term outcomes following CBT therapy.
The researchers said that knowing more about which patients might not fare well long-term could potentially help doctors and patients choose the best course of treatment.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry