Scientists find new way to reduce obsessive-compulsive behaviors

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In a new study, researchers found that applying low-frequency electrical stimulation to a brain region of obsessive-compulsive behavior patients proved to be effective in reducing such behaviors for up to three months.

The research was conducted by a team at Boston University.

Obsessive-compulsive behaviors include a wide assortment of activities, including acting out with addictions to food or gambling, and other behaviors associated with obsessive-compulsive disorders—such as when people try to over-control their environment.

The researchers claim that nearly 1 billion people suffer from one or more kinds of obsessive-compulsive behavior and note that despite much research, there are still very few options available for treating people with these conditions.

Prior research has suggested that such behaviors are likely linked to excessive habit learning that results from rewards as part of reinforcement learning.

It has also been shown that such learning reinforcement takes place mostly in the orbitofrontal cortex part of the brain.

In this study, the researchers examined if stimulating that part of the brain with low-frequency electricity personalized to the same frequency as the brain’s reward network might reduce such activity, resulting in a reduction in obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

They applied low-frequency electrical stimulation to the orbitofrontal cortices of 124 volunteer patients every day for five days.

They then monitored the patients, looking for changes in behaviors for several months.

The researchers found that the electrical stimulation therapy led to a reduction in obsessive-compulsive behaviors for up to three months.

The largest benefits were seen in those patients with the worst symptoms.

The findings suggest that low-frequency electrical stimulation might be used to treat people with obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

One author of the study is Robert M. G. Reinhart.

The study is published in Nature Medicine.

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