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UR Researchers Use $10 Million Grant to Study OCD

Researchers at the University of Rochester are hoping that a $10 million grant will help them better understand what causes one of the most common mental health disorders which affects two to three percent of the world's population.

Lead researcher Suzanne Haber, Ph.D., says her team and mental health researchers at four other U.S. institutions will try to pinpoint the brain circuits that are disrupted in patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

This may lead to a new treatment called TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation.                              

"This is an approach in which magnetic stimulation is placed over the skull, so it's not invasive. It's a non-invasive treatment that is currently being used for depression," Haber said.

The technique stimulates nerve cells in certain regions of the brain. Researchers want to better understand how this treatment influences the brain.

Haber said it's likely that the new treatment would be used in conjunction with cognitive therapy and medication in patients who are struggling with severe forms of OCD.

"Cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective but it is a therapy that is very hard,” Haber said.
“You have to work very hard. It's really difficult for patients. So this TMS is likely to make that transition easier for patients."

Haber said the research results may be applied to other psychiatric disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.

The five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health will establish the Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic and Translational Mental Health Research at the University of Rochester.

The center is designed to bring together scientists from complimentary but diverse backgrounds to diagnose and improve the treatment of mental health disorders.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.