People with certain kinds of obsessive-compulsive disorder feel a need to repeatedly perform certain physical rituals or routines, such as washing their hands, to gain relief from obsessional thoughts. Now research suggests that when we see someone else perform an action, it triggers the same regions of our brains as when we do the action ourselves.
According to a new study by Baland Jalal at the University of Cambridge and VS Ramachandran of the University of California, San Diego, this kind of "vicarious exposure" could lead to new kinds of treatments for OCD. From New Scientist:
“Watching a video of someone washing their hands might be enough to reduce the urge to perform the action in real life,” (Jalal) says. “We could put these videos into an app.”
Exposure therapy is a popular treatment for OCD, and involves people experiencing their obsessive trigger without being allowed to perform the compulsion that makes them feel better. Jalal says that an app may make it possible to do this kind of treatment virtually, rather than with a therapist in a clinic, making it easier and accessible to more people.
At the very least, such an app could be a less harmful substitute for individuals who have compulsions that are bad for their health, he says: “For instance, we might be able to give people who pull their hair out obsessively relief from their urge by watching a video of themselves doing it instead. It might at least act as a kind of benign substitute that’s used alongside more conventional treatments.”
Every year, the nonprofit Neural Correlate Society, an organization “that promotes scientific research into the neural correlates of perception and cognition,” holds a competition for the Best Illusion of the Year. This year’s winner is the above “Dual Axis Illusion” created by Frank Force (USA). “This spinning shape appears to defy logic by rotating around […]
For some children with severe epilepsy, the best treatment may be a very rare surgical procedure in which a large portion — even half — of the child’s brain is removed or disconnected. Amazingly, many of these individuals can relearn motor, language, and cognitive skills. How? The brain reorganizes itself and builds new connections. To […]
Cecil Castellucci (previously) is a polymath artist: YA novelist, comics writer, librettist, rock star; her latest book, Girl on Film, is an extraordinary memoir of her life in the arts, attending New York's School for the Performing Arts (AKA "The Fame School") and being raised by her parents, who are accomplished scientists.
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