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Mental Health Information Centre - Southern Africa

Cognitive training in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Cognitive training in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is a condition that is known to be associated with problematic functioning of certain regions of the brain. One such problem relates to a concept called “working memory”. Working memory is linked to a person’s control over his/her thoughts and behaviour. There is research that suggests that greater activation of specific parts of the brain is associated with improved working memory, and thus improved self-control. This study involves a simple “brain game” (i.e. a “cognitive training” with the so-called n-back working memory task) that trains this specific part of the brain, to test whether this method can improve self-control in people with OCD.

What will your responsibilities be?

In order to participate, you need to have a Smartphone on which the study application will be loaded. If you do not, cognitive training would have to be provided by the UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health on a loan phone which you will be responsible for. You will undergo a comprehensive screening interview with a clinical psychologist to see whether you qualify for participation. The interview also includes the assessment of OCD symptoms and severity.

The study aims to include 20 OCD patients and 20 healthy controls to compare. Nine participants have been recruited thus far, two have completed the 8-week Cognitive Training and two more are currently on their way to completing the Cognitive Training. Taking part in the study involves the following: a screening session, a neuropsychological testing session, a brain scan session, a 4 week follow-up, a post scan and post neuropsych/exit interview. Thus far the training has gone smoothly and participants seem to engage well with this novel manner of brain training. Patients who have already completed the study have expressed their interest in continuing using the application.

Will you benefit from taking part in this research?

Based on results from previous research in other psychiatric disorders, we know that it is highly likely that doing brain training in this way will alter the way your brain functions, in a healthy way, so that you can use more self-control to decrease obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. If this can be proven, your participation will help to increase the number of possibly effective treatment options for patients with OCD.

We are still eagerly looking for participants. If you think you have OCD, or would like to take part as a healthy control, please contact one of the persons involved in the study, as indicated below.

Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-mail: cl2@sun.ac.za or visit http://mentalhealthsa.org.za

We are looking forward to the results of this study and hopefully making a difference in the field of OCD!

Mental Health Topics

In partnership with:

University of Stellenbosch
South African Medical Research Council
University of Cape Town