2019 Jenike Young Investigator Award

Circadian rhythm changes as a predictor of OCD symptom severity and outcome in residential treatment

Jacob Nota, PhD

McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Belmont, MA)

Award Amount: $49,944

Problems with sleep — in particular a delayed sleep cycle where a person falls asleep late at night and wakes up in the late morning or early afternoon — have been associated with more severe OCD symptoms and poorer outcomes in treatment.

This study by Dr. Nota and his team aimed to clarify the cause and effect relationship between sleep and OCD symptoms, and what role sleep plays in patients with severe and treatment-resistant OCD. 23 participants with OCD who underwent four weeks of intensive residential treatment had their melatonin production measured to understand whether differences in circadian rhythms and when they go to sleep are related to OCD severity. Over those four weeks, the production of melatonin began to happen earlier on average; the time patients went to sleep, their length of sleep, and their circadian rhythms shifted toward general population averages. The results of this study are in the process of being published.