Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Creatures of habit: Disorders of compulsivity share common pattern, brain structure

Date:
May 29, 2014
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
People affected by binge eating, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder all share a common pattern of decision making and similarities in brain structure, according to new research. "Compulsive disorders can have a profoundly disabling effect of individuals. Now that we know what is going wrong with their decision making, we can look at developing treatments, for example using psychotherapy focused on forward planning or interventions such as medication which target the shift towards habitual choices," authors said.

People affected by binge eating, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder all share a common pattern of decision making and similarities in brain structure, according to new research from the University of Cambridge.

Related Articles


In a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and primarily funded by the Wellcome Trust, researchers show that people who are affected by disorders of compulsivity have lower grey matter volumes (in other words, fewer nerve cells) in the brain regions involved in keeping track of goals and rewards.

In our daily lives, we make decisions based either on habit or aimed at achieving a specific goal. For example, when driving home from work, we tend to follow habitual choices -- our 'autopilot' mode -- as we know the route well; however, if we move to a nearby street, we will initially follow a 'goal-directed' choice to find our way home -- unless we slip into autopilot and revert to driving back to our old home. However, we cannot always control the decision-making process and make repeat choices even when we know they are bad for us -- in many cases this will be relatively benign, such as being tempted by a cake whilst slimming, but extreme cases it can lead to disorders of compulsivity.

In order to understand what happens when our decision-making processes malfunction, a team of researchers led by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge compared almost 150 individuals with disorders including methamphetamine dependence, obesity with binge eating and obsessive compulsive disorder, comparing them with healthy volunteers of the same age and gender.

Study participants first took part in a computerised task to test their ability to make choices aimed a receiving a reward over and above making compulsive choices. In a second study, the researchers compared brain scans taken using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in healthy individuals and a subset of obese individuals with or without binge eating disorder (a subtype of obesity in which the person binge eats large amounts of food rapidly).

The researchers demonstrated that all of the disorders were connected by a shift away from goal-directed behaviours towards automatic habitual choices. The MRI scans showed that obese subjects with binge eating disorder have lower grey matter volumes -- a measure of the number of neurons -- in the orbitofrontal cortex and striatum of the brain compared to those who do not binge eat; these brain regions are involved in keeping track of goals and rewards. Even in healthy volunteers, lower grey matter volumes were associated with a shift towards more habitual choices.

Dr Valerie Voon, principal investigator of the study, says: "Seemingly diverse choices -- drug taking, eating quickly despite weight gain, and compulsive cleaning or checking -- have an underlying common thread: rather that a person making a choice based on what they think will happen, their choice is automatic or habitual.

"Compulsive disorders can have a profoundly disabling effect of individuals. Now that we know what is going wrong with their decision making, we can look at developing treatments, for example using psychotherapy focused on forward planning or interventions such as medication which target the shift towards habitual choices."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. V Voon, K Derbyshire, C Rück, M A Irvine, Y Worbe, J Enander, L R N Schreiber, C Gillan, N A Fineberg, B J Sahakian, T W Robbins, N A Harrison, J Wood, N D Daw, P Dayan, J E Grant, E T Bullmore. Disorders of compulsivity: a common bias towards learning habits. Molecular Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.44

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Creatures of habit: Disorders of compulsivity share common pattern, brain structure." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529100717.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2014, May 29). Creatures of habit: Disorders of compulsivity share common pattern, brain structure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529100717.htm
University of Cambridge. "Creatures of habit: Disorders of compulsivity share common pattern, brain structure." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529100717.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins