The role of deep brain stimulation on excessive avoidance in rats: A mechanistic window to therapeutic action in OCD

Tomek (Tomasz) Banasikowski, PhD

University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Award Amount: $40,000

Animal models (such as rats) are useful for studying the neuroscience and medication of mental health disorders, as they give insight into how human brains can act and respond. In terms of OCD, models focusing on avoidance learning and extinction of behaviors have been especially helpful.

This study by Dr. Banasikowski and his team aimed to test deep brain stimulation (DBS; a form of non-invasive brain stimulation that focuses on certain brain regions to relieve symptoms) on mice in order to further inform its use for people with OCD. The team’s study was based on the model of “acquired avoidance” — avoidance of an introduced negative stimulus or threat (in this case, an electric shock to the foot). As DBS can disrupt excessive avoidant behavior by reducing the value and notice of the shock — and has shown potential therapeutic effects for people with treatment-resistant OCD —the team aimed to test DBS in mice through this acquired avoidance model and to record their brain activity in regions associated with compulsive behavior. This study would serve to expand understanding of neuronal mechanisms in compulsivity and extinction of behaviors, responses to DBS, and how behavioral activation would lead to adaptive behaviors.