Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Deep brain stimulation, fear extinction, and OCD suppression

Interesting work from Rodriguez-Romaguera et al. (open access):
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS) reduces symptoms of intractable obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but the mechanism of action is unknown. OCD is characterized by avoidance behaviors that fail to extinguish, and DBS could act, in part, by facilitating extinction of fear. We investigated this possibility by using auditory fear conditioning in rats, for which the circuits of fear extinction are well characterized. We found that DBS of the VS (the VC/VS homolog in rats) during extinction training reduced fear expression and strengthened extinction memory. Facilitation of extinction was observed for a specific zone of dorsomedial VS, just above the anterior commissure; stimulation of more ventrolateral sites in VS impaired extinction. DBS effects could not be obtained with pharmacological inactivation of either dorsomedial VS or ventrolateral VS, suggesting an extrastriatal mechanism. Accordingly, DBS of dorsomedial VS (but not ventrolateral VS) increased expression of a plasticity marker in the prelimbic and infralimbic prefrontal cortices, the orbitofrontal cortex, the amygdala central nucleus (lateral division), and intercalated cells, areas known to learn and express extinction. Facilitation of fear extinction suggests that, in accord with clinical observations, DBS could augment the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapies for OCD.

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