Two studies in this week's Science magazine described how researchers used optogenetics-a technique that uses optical fiber light to manipulate the electrical and biochemical signals of the brain-to explore obsessive-compulsive disorder, or The underlying cause of OCD. This disease is characterized by unnecessary, intrusive thoughts (obsessive ideas) and repetitive, compulsive behavior (compulsive behavior); it severely damages millions of people around the world affected by it. Susanne Ahmari and colleagues implanted photoelectrodes in the brains of mice and used them to stimulate neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and ventral medial striatum (VMS) regions, which were previously associated with human OCD. The researchers found that repetitive optogenetic stimulation of these brain regions for only 5 minutes per day over a few days caused an increase in hair grooming behavior in mice, which is the behavior of mice related to OCD. According to the researchers, after optogenetic stimulation, this forced hair grooming behavior will continue in mice for 2 weeks, and about 6 days after this stimulation, neurons in OFC and VMS will discharge themselves, and Forced grooming no longer needs to be triggered by optogenetic stimulation. However, according to the researchers, fluoxetine, the first-line treatment for OCD, can be used to stop this compulsive behavior.
In another report, Eric BurguiÃ¨re and colleagues explained how they used optogenetics to block the repetitive, compulsive behavior of mice lacking the Sapap3 gene. These mice were designed to delete the Sapap3 gene. The loss of genes can cause excessive grooming behavior. The researchers found a defect in the medial striatum in the mouse brain and used optogenetics to stimulate neurons in the lateral OFC-they were able to compensate for the defect and eliminate the compulsive behavior. Taken together, these findings suggest that OCD may be caused by bursts of small but repetitive abnormal neuronal activity. These research results also suggest new ways to treat diseases characterized by repetitive behaviors. An "Opinion Column" article by Scott Rauch and William Carlezon Jr. explains these findings and their implications in more detail.
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