Pathologically reduced neural flexibility recovers during psychotherapy of OCD patients.

NeuroImage. Clinical
Günter SchiepekViktor Jirsa


Flexibility is a key feature of psychological health, allowing the individual to dynamically adapt to changing environmental demands, which is impaired in many psychiatric disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Adequately responding to varying demands requires the brain to switch between different patterns of neural activity, which are represented by different brain network configurations (functional connectivity patterns). Here, we operationalize neural flexibility as the dissimilarity between consecutive connectivity matrices of brain regions (jump length). In total, 132 fMRI scans were obtained from 17 patients that were scanned four to five times during inpatient psychotherapy, and from 17 controls that were scanned at comparable time intervals. Significant negative correlations were found between the jump lengths and the symptom severity scores of OCD, depression, anxiety, and stress, suggesting that high symptom severity corresponds to inflexible brain functioning. Further analyses revealed that impaired reconfiguration (pattern stability) of the brain seems to be more related to general psychiatric impairment rather than to specific symptoms, e.g., of OCD or depression. Importantly, the group × time interact...Continue Reading

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