Self-regulation of Anterior Insula Using Real-time fMRI and Behavioral Effects in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

DSpace Repository


Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2014-11
Language: English
Faculty: 4 Medizinische Fakultät
Department: Medizinische Fakultät
Advisor: Birbaumer, Niels (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2014-09-26
DDC Classifikation: 610 - Medicine and health
Keywords: Funktionelle Kernspintomographie , Neurofeedback
Other Keywords:
realtime fMRI
Obsessive compulsive disorder
brain computer interfaces
License: Publishing license including print on demand
Order a printed copy: Print-on-Demand
Show full item record


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common and chronic condition that can have disabling effects throughout the patient's lifespan. Frequent symptoms among OCD patients include fear of contamination and washing compulsions. Several studies have shown a link between contamination fears, disgust over-reactivity, and insula activation in OCD. In concordance with the role of insula in disgust processing, new neural models based on neuroimaging studies suggest that abnormally high activations of insula could be implicated in OCD psychopathology, at least in the subgroup of patients with contamination fears and washing compulsions. In the current pilot study, we used a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) based on real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) to aid OCD patients to achieve down-regulation of the Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) signal in anterior insula. Our first aim was to investigate whether patients with contamination obsessions and washing compulsions can learn to volitionally decrease (down-regulate) activity in the insula in the presence of disgust/anxiety provoking stimuli. Our second aim was to evaluate the effect of down-regulation on clinical, behavioral and physiological changes pertaining to OCD symptoms. Hence, several pre- and post-training measures were performed, i.e., confronting the patient with a disgust/anxiety inducing real-world object (Ecological Disgust Test), and subjective rating and physiological responses (heart rate, skin conductance level) of disgust towards provoking pictures. Results of this study, performed in 3 patients (2 females), show that OCD patients can gain self-control of the BOLD activity of insula, albeit to different degrees. In the two patients with better performance on insula regulation, learned down-regulation led to significant positive changes in behaviour in the EDT. Behavioural changes were also confirmed by reductions in the negative valence, and in the subjective perception of disgust towards symptom provoking images. Although preliminary, results of this study confirmed that insula down-regulation is possible in patients suffering from OCD, and that volitional decreases of insula activation could be used for symptom alleviation in this disorder.

This item appears in the following Collection(s)