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Brain scans predict OCD patients fit for specific treatment

Brain activity seen in pre-therapy scans indicated how OCD patients would respond to cognitive-behavioral therapy.

By
Stephen Feller
Researchers have found they may be able to predict OCD patients' response to treatment using a brain scan. Photo: toysf400/Shutterstock
Researchers have found they may be able to predict OCD patients' response to treatment using a brain scan. Photo: toysf400/Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES, June 25 (UPI) -- Cognitive-behavioral therapy is successful with 80 percent of patients with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, however researchers in a small study have now found they can predict which patients will see symptoms relapse by taking brain scans before the treatment, potentially saving huge amounts of time and money.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, teaches people with OCD to understand the thoughts and feelings that influence their behaviors and work to change them.

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"Cognitive-behavioral therapy is in many cases very effective, at least in the short term. But it is costly, time-consuming, difficult for patients and, in many areas, not available," said Jamie Feusner, a UCLA associate professor of psychiatry, in a press release. "Thus, if someone will end up having their symptoms return, it would be useful to know before they get treatment."

MRI scans of 17 OCD patients' brains were taken before and after a four-week CBT treatment, and doctors monitored them for a year after completing the treatment.

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CBT generally causes more densely connected local brain networks, which results in more efficient brain activity, according to Feusner, though the study found that some patients with more efficient brain activity before undergoing CBT saw their OCD symptoms get worse.

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"We are now starting to translate knowledge of the brain into useful information that in the future could be used by doctors and patients to make clinical decisions," Feusner said. "Although a brain scan may seem expensive, these scans only took about 15 minutes and thus the cost is not exceptionally high, particularly in comparison to medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy treatments, which over time can cost many thousands of dollars."

The study is published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

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