(dailyRx News) A new model of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as its treatment, has been created. The model offers new insight into the disorder, which disrupts a person's life with unwanted thoughts and repetitive rituals that cause anxiety.
The model may also point the way to new treatments for OCD and possibly autism as well.
Nancy Shanahan, PhD, led a team of researchers at University of Chicago Medical Center who worked with mice to isolate a single neurotransmitter receptor in the brain that is responsible for OCD symptoms. Using a drug that is normally used to treat migraines in humans, but also tends to increase anxiety and compulsions in people with OCD, researchers were able to mimic the disorder in the mice.
The team then injected the mice with drugs used to treat OCD in humans - serotonin reuptake inhibitors also used for depression. Researchers then looked for the specific brain region where OCD symptoms are activated, and were able to identify a region called the orbitofrontal cortex, that is more active in OCD patients and was the critical receptor.
The results offer promising new methods of treatment for OCD, because development of a drug that blocks these receptors could be effective in treating OCD symptoms. No such chemical is currently available.
"Treatment for these people is greatly needed, and there really are very few highly valid animal models of the disorder," Dr. Shanahan said. "OCD is very mysterious and very prevalent. The development of OCD-specific treatments will be an extremely important step toward helping these people and preventing the disorder's cost to society."
The research paper was published online in September 2011 by Biological Psychiatry.