NIH grant to support research on new treatment for severe OCD

As part of a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers will look at whether a breakthrough therapy for Parkinson's disease can also treat the worst cases of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). A research team led out of the University of Rochester Medical Center will measure whether Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) can reduce the rampant anxiety that keeps some OCD patients homebound.

DBS changes uses implanted microstimulators to block abnormal nerve signals sent between brain structures, with the effect determined by the precise placement of the stimulators. Researchers have successfully used these so-called "brain pacemakers" to treat movement disorders like Parkinson's disease, and the new study seeks to confirm that they can help patients with OCD as well. The team will also attempt to determine exactly which brain network is disrupted in OCD in hopes of fine-tuning treatment.

OCD is a chronic anxiety disorder that affects 2.2 million Americans. Patients struggle with obsessions and the urgent need to repeat behaviors that can relieve anxiety. Sufferers may feel compelled to wash their hands or clean constantly with the hope of making obsessive thoughts go away, but such rituals provide only temporary relief.

"DBS is one of the most promising areas of OCD research because early studies show that it may help many within the approximately 20 percent of OCD patients for whom neither psychological nor drug therapy works," said Suzanne Haber, Ph.D., a professor within the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "Some patients have been able to venture out to work and school for the first time with DBS," said Haber, who is lead investigator for the grant.

The grant is funded through two institutes within NIH, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). While NIMH will fund

Contact: Greg Williams
University of Rochester Medical Center

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