Discontinuous Patterns of Brain Activation in the Psychotherapy Process of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Converging Results from Repeated fMRI and Daily Self-Reports


Schiepek, Günter / Tominschek, Igor / Heinzel, Stephan / Aigner, Martin / Dold, Markus, et al.



This study investigates neuronal activation patterns during the psychotherapeutic process, assuming that change dynamics undergo critical instabilities and discontinuous transitions. An internet-based system was used to collect daily selfassessments during inpatient therapies. A dynamic complexity measure was applied to the resulting time series. Critical phases of the change process were indicated by the maxima of the varying complexity. Repeated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements were conducted over the course of the therapy. The study was realized with 9 patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (subtype: washing/contamination fear) and 9 matched healthy controls. For symptom-provocative stimulation individualized pictures from patients’ personal environments were used. The neuronal responses to these disease-specific pictures were compared to the responses during standardized disgustprovoking and neutral pictures. Considerably larger neuronal changes in therapy-relevant brain areas (cingulate cortex/supplementary motor cortex, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, bilateral insula, bilateral parietal cortex, cuneus) were observed during critical phases (order transitions), as compared to non-critical phases, and also compared to healthy controls. The data indicate that non-stationary changes play a crucial role in the psychotherapeutic process supporting selforganization and complexity models of therapeutic change.



Verlag / erschienen in

PLoS ONE 8(8): http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0071863