The Psychopharmacology of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Preclinical Roadmap
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This review evaluates current knowledge about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), with the goal of providing a roadmap for future directions in research on the psychopharmacology of the disorder. It first addresses issues in the description and diagnosis of OCD, including the structure, measurement, and appropriate description of the disorder and issues of differential diagnosis. Current pharmacotherapies for OCD are then reviewed, including monotherapy with serotonin reuptake inhibitors and augmentation with antipsychotic medication and with psychologic treatment. Neuromodulatory therapies for OCD are also described, including psychosurgery, deep brain stimulation, and noninvasive brain stimulation. Psychotherapies for OCD are then reviewed, focusing on behavior therapy, including exposure and response prevention and cognitive therapy, and the efficacy of these interventions is discussed, touching on issues such as the timing of sessions, the adjunctive role of pharmacotherapy, and the underlying mechanisms. Next, current research on the neurobiology of OCD is examined, including work probing the role of various neurotransmitters and other endogenous processes and etiology as clues to the neurobiological fault that may underlie OCD. A new perspective on preclinical research is advanced, using the Research Domain Criteria to propose an adaptationist viewpoint that regards OCD as the dysfunction of a normal motivational system. A systems-design approach introduces the security motivation system (SMS) theory of OCD as a framework for research. Finally, a new perspective on psychopharmacological research for OCD is advanced, exploring three approaches: boosting infrastructure facilities of the brain, facilitating psychotherapeutic relearning, and targeting specific pathways of the SMS network to fix deficient SMS shut-down processes. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: A significant proportion of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) do not achieve remission with current treatments, indicating the need for innovations in psychopharmacology for the disorder. OCD may be conceptualized as the dysfunction of a normal, special motivation system that evolved to manage the prospect of potential danger. This perspective, together with a wide-ranging review of the literature, suggests novel directions for psychopharmacological research, including boosting support systems of the brain, facilitating relearning that occurs in psychotherapy, and targeting specific pathways in the brain that provide deficient stopping processes in OCD.
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