Neural responses of OCD patients towards disorder-relevant, generally disgust-inducing and fear-inducing pictures

Int J Psychophysiol. 2005 Jul;57(1):69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2004.12.013. Epub 2005 Apr 22.


This functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated the disgust- and fear-reactivity of patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Ten OCD patients were scanned while viewing blocks of pictures showing OCD triggers from their personal environment and OCD-irrelevant disgust-inducing, fear-inducing and neutral scenes. Afterwards, the patients rated the intensity of the induced disgust, fear and OCD symptoms. The responses were compared with those of 10 healthy control subjects. The disorder-relevant pictures provoked intense OCD symptoms in the clinical group associated with increased activation in the bilateral prefrontal cortex, the left insula, the right supramarginal gyrus, the left caudate nucleus and the right thalamus. The patients gave higher disgust and fear ratings than the controls for all aversive picture categories. Neural responses towards the disorder-irrelevant disgusting and fear-inducing material included more pronounced insula activation in patients than controls. Summarizing, photos of individual OCD-triggers are an effective means of symptom provocation and activation of the fronto-striato-thalamo-parietal network. The increased insular reactivity of OCD patients during all aversive picture conditions might mirror their susceptibility to experience negative somatic states.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires