Wednesday, October 1, 2008 Missing grey matter may drive obsession

A Cambridge study reveals new clues about the cause of OCD, reports Roger Highfield

A tell tale reduction in grey matter has been linked to a greater chance of developing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a find which will shed new light on the cause of this severe psychiatric condition and could pave the way for tests to identify children at risk.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects up to three per cent of the general population over a lifetime and is marked by intrusive unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and the need to perform repetitive acts or rituals in order to alleviate anxiety (compulsions), such as endless hand washing, household safety checks and so on.

These symptoms can consume the patient, causing severe distress, alienation and anxiety.

The disorder does run in families and now Cambridge researchers have discovered a change in the brain linked with a higher risk.

Individuals with OCD and their close family members have distinctive patterns in their brain structure, they found, making this the first time that scientists have associated an anatomical trait with the risk of the disorder.

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