Research claims that OCD patients could be helped by zapping their brains before they even begin to experience symptoms.

  • One in fifty people are affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder. 
  • Researchers have discovered brain signals that activate before rituals are started by people. Scientists can now use this information to help guide their research.
  • This could enable them to use pulses of electric current to stop symptoms.

People with OCD may be able to tap their brains before they even begin symptoms.

About one in 50 Americans suffers from obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) at some point in their lives. There are over a million OCD patients in the UK.

This can include compulsive hand washing, repeat checks to ensure doors and ovens are closed, as well repetitive anxious thoughts that can make it difficult for people to move around the home, work, or maintain good relationships.

Researchers now know how brain signals work before rituals or checks are initiated.

This could enable them to use targeted electric pulses to disable the brain’s signals and cause symptoms.

The procedure of deep brain stimulation involves the placement electrodes inside the brain. This has helped many people suffering from severe OCD for years.

However, targeted brain stimulation that is used only when the symptoms start or dialed up when they become severe could prove to be more efficient.

Dialling down brain stimulation when someone’s OCD is less severe could avoid stimulation boosting their mood too strongly – a side-effect which can lead to risk-taking behaviour like gambling, speeding or binge-drinking.

People who are too hard on themselves may be more likely to develop OCD or anxiety (stock)

OCD and anxiety may develop in people who put too much pressure on themselves (stock).

Researchers tracked five patients with OCD to determine the brain signals responsible for OCD’s onset.

Aged 31-40, the three men and women were both diagnosed with compulsive cleaning.

These patients had experienced failure with conventional therapies, anti-depressants included and therapy.

What is OCD? 

OCD (or obsessive compulsive disorders) is a common mental illness that makes it difficult to manage thoughts.

Although it can be affected at any age, most cases occur in young adults.

This can lead to repetitive, unpleasant or unhappiness thoughts.

People may also develop compulsive behaviour – a physical action or something mental – which they do over and over to try to relieve the obsessive thoughts.

It can be managed and treated by medication or psychotherapy.  

OCD is not a common condition. However, it can be caused by a variety of brain chemicals and life events, such as pregnancy or death. 

People who tend to be neat, organized and methodical are more likely than others to get it.

Source: NHS 

A study that lasted 18 months asked people suffering from OCD to perform certain tasks. This included touching dirty switches or giving their hands to someone who was dirty to touch them.

The results showed the signal involved, which appears to be brainwaves of a specific frequency from the ‘reward’ region of the brain.

Brainwaves are the electrical activity from brain cells ‘talking’ to each other.

By zapping your brain, you can damage cells in the reward center and stop them from functioning rationally.

Dr David Borton, senior author of the study on people with OCD, from Brown University in the US, said: ‘OCD can be incredibly debilitating, with cleaning rituals or compulsive checking taking up 100 per cent of people’s time and mental energy.

‘For the most severely affected, they can feel mentally trapped, unable to leave their home because of the fear that they may become contaminated with dirt or something bad could happen.

‘Brain stimulation which reacts to symptoms and their severity could really help people with OCD.’

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, recorded people’s OCD in a doctor’s clinic and going about their everyday lives.

They recorded five of their symptoms, and also their facial expressions and head movements to determine how badly they felt.

The use of cutting-edge data monitoring enabled researchers to track brainwaves in relation to changes in the condition.

Brain stimulation needs to be improved because up to 40 per cent of people don’t respond to traditional drugs or therapy, and 10 per cent respond to neither, researchers said.

One way to benefit from brain surgery is to gain more knowledge.