I try to keep up with the latest research on obsessive-compulsive disorder, as I always find it heartening to know scientists are working hard to unlock the secrets of OCD.
A study published last month in the journal Cell Reports found evidence which suggests that neural dysfunction in a certain region in the brain can lead to obsessive and repetitive behaviors in mice.
The study, titled “Complete Disruption of the Kainate Receptor Gene Family Results in Corticostriatal Dysfunction in Mice,” was conducted at Northwestern University. It found that certain synaptic receptors are important for the development of a specific brain circuit. If these receptors are eliminated in mice, they exhibit obsessive behavior, such as over-grooming.
Lead author Anis Contractor, who is an associate professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, stated:
A number of studies have found mutations in the kainate receptor genes that are associated with OCD or other neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders in humans…….I believe our study, which found that a mouse with targeted mutations in these genes exhibited OCD-like behaviors, helps support the current genetic studies on neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders in humans.
To read more about the study, check out this article.
Another study has been highly publicized recently, and this one focuses on research which suggests the absence of a certain protein (SPRED2) triggers excessive grooming behavior in mice. You can read more about this study here.
What I found interesting about this study is not so much the study itself (which is certainly encouraging) but how it has been publicized:
You can’t believe everything you read. These are sensationalized headlines, and in a nutshell, they are not true. I want a cure for OCD as much as anybody, but more importantly I want the truth.
As Dr. John Grohol explains in this important article, there are a couple of problems at play here. One is that this press release was written by a writer at the university whose job is to make sure his articles get picked up by mainstream news organizations. The second issue is that these news organizations pick up these headlines and run with them, with little to no checking of the facts.
I share Dr. Grohol’s frustration when he says:
Mainstream news organizations, however, have a responsibility to the public to start questioning the news releases from universities and do two minutes worth of Googling (as I did) to put new research in its proper context.
It’s not that hard. It’s something we used to call good journalism.
Is there valuable research being conducted on OCD?
Has THE cause or cure for the disorder been found?
But that’s not to say it won’t happen. We need to be patient and we need to use the evidence-based treatments we currently have to fight the disorder. And we need to do our homework when we read about the latest research on OCD.