Mistakes committed, which cost us dearly, like deleting important files or leaving gas open, trigger specific reactions in the brain.
According to the published work of US scientists in the Journal of Neuroscience, one area becomes more active after "costly" mistakes. This may help understand OCD better.
The study examined the brains of 12 healthy adults using a functional MRI (fMRI) scanner while they were undertook 360 computer tests, such as spotting the odd one out or picking pairs of letters.
Succeeding at some carried a small financial reward, while failing at others incurred penalties. Others carried no reward or penalty.
The methodology was to tell people were told they had a $10 (Ģ5.70) "credit" to begin, and that they would receive real cash depending on their balance at the end.
The response to a mistake that cost them money was seen to be greater than the response to other mistakes and involved a part of the brain called the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC).
Stephan Taylor, lead researcher, said: "It's very interesting to us that the same part of the brain that responded in our OCD study on regular, no-cost errors also responded in healthy individuals when we made the error count more. It appears to us so far that OCD patients may have a hyperactive response to making errors, with increased worry.
In the words of Dr Heather Sequeira, a psychologist at St George's Hospital, London,: "This is a very intriguing piece of research. In clinical practice we often find that OCD develops following a significant life event or increase in stress - particularly when it is associated with an increase in responsibility for the person, such as being promoted or having a baby. In a person who is susceptible to OCD, conceivably because of the rACC differences described by these researchers, these periods of increased stress may well be the very times when ' everyday mistakes' are perceived as carrying a greater penalty. An exaggerated perception of error is likely to be linked to the untoward anxiety about errors or failures and the associated compulsive checking, washing and other repetitive responses associated with OCD."