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Karch, Susanne; Maywald, Maximilian; Schwartz, Caroline; Heil, Clara; Neumüller, Jakob; Keeser, Daniel; Garcia, Sarah; Tschentscher, Nadja; Pogarell, Oliver; Paolini, Marco; Voderholzer, Ulrich (2024): Neuronal correlates of intensification and acceptance of symptoms during exposure therapy in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Frontiers in Psychology, 15: 1256046. ISSN 1664-1078

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Cognitive behaviour therapy with exposure and response prevention is efficient in treating patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Nevertheless, it would be helpful for many patients to complement the therapeutic treatment with acceptance strategies to further increase the therapeutic benefit. The aim of the present study was to examine neurobiological responses to acceptance and intensification strategies during symptom provocation alongside the psychotherapeutic process.


A total of 23 patients diagnosed with OCD (subtype: washing/contamination fear) was instructed to utilise either an acceptance strategy (ACS) or an intensification strategy (INS) to cope with their emotional and cognitive reactions to personalised symptom-triggering and neutral pictures. Fourteen patients participated twice: at the beginning [T1] and at the end [T2] of an inpatient multimodal treatment including cognitive behaviour therapy with response prevention to assess functional variations.


For the contrast of T1 and T2, ACS showed increased brain activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), left caudate body, and posterior cingulate gyrus (PCC). They also showed decreased activity in the left anterior insula. INS showed decreased activation in right lingual gyrus and right caudate body. At T2, ACS showed increased activation compared to INS in the left cerebrum: IFG, caudate nucleus, middle and superior temporal gyrus, and PCC/cuneus. For the comparison of T1 and T2, the ACS revealed increased brain activity in the left IFG, left caudate body, and right inferior parietal lobe. It showed decreased activity in the left anterior insula. The INS revealed decreased activity in right lingual gyrus and right caudate body.

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