Columbia University Medical Center
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National Institutes of Health
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
Making and breaking compulsive behavior
June 7, 2013


When scientists have scanned the brains of people with OCD, they’ve seen more neural activity in areas like the OFC and the striatum. But why? Is this activity the cause of obsessions and compulsions, or does it actually reflect an attempt to hold those symptoms at bay?

To answer this question, Ahmari turned to a technique called optogenetics, which involves implanting neurons with light-sensitive proteins. Scientists can then turn those specific neurons on or off by flashing them with different colours of light, delivered by an optic fibre.Invented in 2005, optogenetics has revolutionised the study of the brain by allowing neuroscientists to control specific sets of neurons in specific parts of the brain.

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