1 April 2021

The Radboudumc is participating in a study, led by Amsterdam UMC, into a new, promising treatment for therapy-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder. A sum of 2.8 million euros has been made available, with several other hospitals and mental healthcare institutions also participating.

A compulsive disorder can severely restrict a person's life and that of his or her loved ones. At least 100,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is characterized by disturbing compulsive thoughts and time-consuming compulsive actions that can be so disruptive that someone experiences a high pressure of suffering, often cannot work or study and becomes socially isolated. Roughly half of all people with an obsessive-compulsive disorder cannot be cured, or cannot be cured for a long time, using existing care (cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication). For them, there is really no good alternative. The most far-reaching treatment - brain surgery or deep brain stimulation - is an option only for the most extreme cases.

Research group consists of 250 patients

Over the next few years, 250 patients will take part in the subsidized research into a new, promising treatment for OCD. The promising treatment in question is called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS. "We think we can better help the group that does not benefit sufficiently from cognitive behavioral therapy," says research leader and professor of neuropsychiatry Odile van den Heuvel (Amsterdam UMC) and Indira Tendolkar, professor of psychiatry at Radboudumc. "Using a magnetic field, we generate an electric current in the brain. With this we can stimulate the brain circuit that is responsible for control over emotions and behavior. We are going to bring the brain into an optimal state, as it were, to increase the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy." Patients will undergo rTMS treatment four times a week for a minimum of 5 weeks and a maximum of 7 weeks. Cognitive behavioral therapy will follow each session. 

Long-term collaboration

Without the grant funding, this study would not have gotten off the ground, Van den Heuvel believes. If the study results show that rTMS is effective for the group of patients for whom nothing else helps at the moment, the treatment will be covered by basic insurance. "The subsidy also enables us as OCD clinics to really establish a national collaboration. I see this as an enormous catalyst, not only for this research but also for a long-term collaboration from which much can still emerge."


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