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Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Authors Gonçalves ÓF, Batistuzzo MC, Sato JR

Received 27 May 2017

Accepted for publication 20 June 2017

Published 12 July 2017 Volume 2017:13 Pages 1825—1834


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Prof. Dr. Roumen Kirov

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Wai Kwong Tang

Óscar F Gonçalves,1–3 Marcelo C Batistuzzo,4 João R Sato5

1Neuropsychophysiology Lab, CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal; 2Spaulding Neuromodulation Center, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; 3Social and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Center for Health and Biological Sciences, Mackenzie Presbyterian University, 4Department and Institute of Psychiatry, University of São Paulo Medical School (FMUSP), 5Mathematics, Computing, and Cognition Center, Universidade Federal do ABC – UFABC, São Paulo, Brazil

Abstract: The current literature provides substantial evidence of brain alterations associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms (eg, checking, cleaning/decontamination, counting compulsions; harm or sexual, symmetry/exactness obsessions), and emotional problems (eg, defensive/appetitive emotional imbalance, disgust, guilt, shame, and fear learning/extinction) and cognitive impairments associated with this disorder (eg, inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility). Building on this evidence, new clinical trials can now target specific brain regions/networks. Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) was introduced as a new therapeutic tool for the self-regulation of brain–mind. In this review, we describe initial trials testing the use of rtfMRI to target brain regions associated with specific OCD symptoms (eg, contamination), and other mind–brain processes (eg, cognitive – working memory, inhibitory control, emotional – defensive, appetitive systems, fear reduction through counter-conditioning) found impaired in OCD patients. While this is a novel topic of research, initial evidence shows the promise of using rtfMRI in training the self-regulation of brain regions and mental processes associated with OCD. Additionally, studies with healthy populations have shown that individuals can regulate brain regions associated with cognitive and emotional processes found impaired in OCD. After the initial “proof-of-concept” stage, there is a need to follow up with controlled clinical trials that could test rtfMRI innovative treatments targeting brain regions and networks associated with different OCD symptoms and cognitive-emotional impairments.

Keywords: real-time fMRI, obsessive-compulsive disorder, self-regulation, neurofeedback, neuromodulation

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