The Biological approach to explaining OCD - Neural explanations

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  • Neural explanations
    • The role of serotonin
      • If a person has low levels of serotonin then normal transmission doesn't take place and mood/other mental processes are affected
      • One explanation concerns the role of serotonin - believed to help regulate mood
      • Some cases of OCD may be explained by a reduction in the functioning of the serotonin system in the brain
      • Neurotransmitters are responsible for relaying information from one neuron to another
    • Decision-making systems
      • May be associated with abnormal functioning of the lateral of the frontal lobes of the brain
      • Evidence to suggest that the left parahippocampal gyrus (associated with processing unpleasant emotions) functions abnormally in OCD
      • The frontal lobes are the front part of the brain responsible for logical thinking and decision making
      • Some cases of OCD seem to be associated with impaired decision making
    • Genes associated with OCD are likely to affect the levels of key neurotransmitters as well as structures of the brain
    • Evaluation
      • There is some supporting evidence
        • Some antidepressants work purely on the serotonin system, increasing levels of neurotransmitter
        • Effective in reducing OCD symptoms, suggesting that the serotonin system is involved in OCD
        • OCD symptoms form part of a number of other symptoms that are biological in origin
        • Suggests that biological processes that cause the symptoms may also be responsible for OCD
      • It is not clear exactly which neural mechanisms are involved
        • Studies of decision making have shown that these neural systems are the ones that function abnormally in OCD (Cavedini et al. 2002)
        • Research has also identified other brain systems that may be involved sometimes but no system has been found that always plays a role
      • We should not assume that neural mechanisms cause OCD
        • Evidence suggests that various neurotransmitters and structures of the brain do not function normally in patients with OCD
        • Not the same as saying that this is the cause
        • Could be a result
  • Evaluation extra
    • The serotonin-OCD link may simply be co-morbidity with depression
      • Many people who suffer from OCD become depressed
      • Having two disorders together is called co-morbidity
      • Probably involves disruption to the serotonin system
      • Leaves us with a logical problem when it comes to the serotonin system as a possible basis for OCD
      • Could simply be that the serotonin system is disrupted in many patients with OCD because they are depressed as well
    • Twin studies are flawed as genetic evidence
      • Twin studies are a standard source of evidence for genetic influence
      • Makes the assumption that identical twins are more similar in terms of their genes, but overlook that it may be because of shared environments

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