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Although cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), few reliable predictors of treatment outcome have been identified. The present study examined the neural correlates of symptom improvement with CBT among OCD patients with predominantly contamination obsessions and washing compulsions, the most common OCD symptom dimension.
Participants consisted of 12 OCD patients who underwent symptom provocation with contamination-related images during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning prior to 12 weeks of CBT.
Patterns of brain activity during symptom provocation were correlated with a decrease on the Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) after treatment, even when controlling for baseline scores on the YBOCS and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and improvement on the BDI during treatment. Specifically, activation in brain regions involved in emotional processing, such as the anterior temporal pole and amygdala, was most strongly associated with better treatment response. By contrast, activity in areas involved in emotion regulation, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, correlated negatively with treatment response mainly in the later stages within each block of exposure during symptom provocation.
Successful recruitment of limbic regions during exposure to threat cues in patients with contamination-based OCD may facilitate a better response to CBT, whereas excessive activation of dorsolateral prefrontal regions involved in cognitive control may hinder response to treatment. The theoretical implications of the findings and their potential relevance to personalized care approaches are discussed.
Most neuroimaging studies of specific phobia have investigated the animal subtype. The blood-injection-injury (BII) subtype is characterized by a unique biphasic psychophysiological response, which could suggest a distinct neural substrate, but direct comparisons between phobia types are lacking.
This study compared the neural responses during the presentation of phobia-specific stimuli in 12 BII phobics, 14 spider (SP) phobics and 14 healthy controls using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Subjective ratings showed that the experimental paradigm produced the desired symptom-specific effects. As in many previous studies, when viewing spider-related stimuli, SP phobics showed increased activation in dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insula, compared to BII phobics and healthy controls. However, when viewing images of blood-injection-injuries, participants with BII phobia mainly showed increased activation in the thalamus and visual/attention areas (occipito-temporo-parietal cortex), compared with the other two groups. The degree of provoked anxiety and disgust by phobia-relevant images was strongly associated with activation in several common regions across the two phobia groups (thalamus, cerebellum, occipito-temporal regions) but only correlated with activation in the dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus and the anterior insula in the SP phobics.
These results suggest partially distinct neurobiological substrates of animal and BII phobias and support their current classification as two distinct subtypes in the DSM-IV-TR. Further research is needed to better understand the precise neurobiological mechanisms in BII phobia and particularly the fainting response.
Fatigue is the central symptom in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and yet very little is known about its neural correlates. The aim of this study was to explore the functional brain response, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to the imaginal experience of fatigue in CFS patients and controls.
We compared the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) responses of 12 CFS patients and 11 healthy controls to a novel fatigue provocation procedure designed to mimic real-life situations. A non-fatiguing anxiety-provoking condition was also included to control for the non-specific effects of negative affect.
During the provocation of fatigue, CFS patients reported feelings of both fatigue and anxiety and, compared to controls, they showed increased activation in the occipito-parietal cortex, posterior cingulate gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus, and decreased activation in dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices. The reverse pattern of findings was observed during the anxiety-provoking scenarios.
The results may suggest that, in CFS patients, the provocation of fatigue is associated with exaggerated emotional responses that patients may have difficulty suppressing. These findings are discussed in relation to the cognitive-behavioural model of CFS.
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