A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge has identified a chemical imbalance in the brains of individuals suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The results were published in a report which found that this imbalance can lead to symptoms such as an obsession with cleanliness, aggressive impulses, or a need for symmetry. This condition affects about 2% of the population and over 2 million adults in the US.
Professor Trevor Robbins of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and the senior author of the new study stated: “Symptoms of intrusive thoughts and repetitive rituals can confine patients to their homes for months on end.
If left untreated, OCD can be chronic and can interfere with a person’s normal routine, schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. In extreme cases, the lack of control and sense of hopelessness caused by OCD can result in thoughts of suicide.”
The research team conducted brain scans on 31 people who had been diagnosed with OCD as well as 30 healthy volunteers.
Their findings revealed that there was an imbalance between two chemicals – glutamate and GABA – located in frontal lobes of those suffering from OCD.
“Glutamate is an ‘excitatory’ neurochemical: it facilitates electrical impulses that fire neurons to send information around brain networks. GABA is an ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter that works in opposition to glutamate by dampening neural excitability, creating a balance,” the school said.
“OCD sufferers had higher levels of glutamate and lower levels of GABA … compared to people without OCD.”
So raised levels of glutamate may prove to be a sign of OCD.
Robbins believes the study’s findings are a major breakthrough in treating the condition.
“Understanding obsessive-compulsive disorder is a central question for psychiatry. We have now shown definitive changes in these key neurotransmitters in OCD sufferers,” he said.
“Our findings are a major piece of the puzzle for understanding the mechanisms behind OCD,” the professor added.
“The results suggest new strategies for medication in OCD based on available drugs that regulate glutamate.”
The study showed higher levels of glutamate and lower levels Of GABA compared to people without OCD; indicating raised levels Of glutamate may be signifiers Of this disorder.
It is important to note that even though there has been some progress made In identifying potential causes and treatments for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder there is still much work to be done before any definite solutions can be implemented into clinical practice.
With this being said it is clear that more research must continue to identify ways to effectively treat such an affliction before it becomes too severe or leads to dire consequences such ss suicidal thoughts or behaviors.