OCD causes: New study links Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to genes

A new research study, which focused on OCD causes, has discovered a link between obsessive-compulsive behavior and a neural dysfunction in a certain region of the brain.

Obsessive compulsive disorder can be an extreme emotional challenge as it often manifests itself in anxiety, worries, fears, tics, and unnecessary repetitive behavior. In some instances, the condition can be so severe that it leads to suicidal thoughts.

The new research study, which was conducted by Northwestern Medicine (NM), provides the first strong evidence that there is a genetic basis for OCD. Northwestern Medicine is a leader in quality healthcare and services and brings together physicians and researchers to explore advanced care.

Northwestern Medicine’s study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and the McKnight Foundation.

The study

In its February 22, 2017, report, Northwestern Medicine shares that researchers were able to pinpoint obsessive-compulsive behavior to a circuit in the brain called the corticostriatal connection.

In humans as well as in mice, the corticostriatal connection (brain circuit) regulates habitual and repetitive behavior. The proper development and function of the corticostriatal connection depend on specific synaptic receptors.

Researchers were able to induce obsessive behavior in mice by targeting those synaptic receptors and manipulating them. Researchers were able to confirm that kainate receptors affected corticostriatal synaptic transmission by mediating a small current.

After targeting the synaptic receptors, the mice displayed obsessive behavior including self-injurious over-grooming and repetitive digging in bedding. Previously mastered tasks like navigating a maze turned into a failure.

Anis Contractor, the lead author of the study and associate professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, commented that this is the first strong evidence that the genes coding those receptors might impact obsessive compulsive behavior in humans.

“Variations in these receptor genes are associated with human neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and neuropsychiatric disorders such as OCD,” Contractor stated. “People with OCD are known to have abnormalities in function of corticostriatal circuits.”

What the study means for OCD sufferers

Lead author Anis Contractor emphasized that the latest research findings support other current genetic studies on neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.

There are two major components of the study conducted by Northwestern Medicine that are noteworthy. The two components are its genetic element and the synaptic element.

Being a genetic disorder, if someone is experiencing OCD, it is quite likely that someone else in the family has experienced similar symptoms. Exploring one’s family history and experiences like anxiety, worries, or compulsive behavior might add to one’s increased awareness.

In regard to the synaptic element and the workings of the corticostriatal connection (brain circuit) in humans, Neuroplasticity – the ability to strengthen or form new neural pathways – can make all the difference in dealing with Emotional Disabilities and the challenging symptoms of OCD.


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