With a grant of 2.8 million euro, several Dutch hospitals and mental health institutions are supported in their search into a new, promising treatment for treatment-resistant compulsive disorders. The research is led by Amsterdam UMC. As research leader and professor of neuropsychiatry Odile van den Heuvel is really honored with the funding from the National Health Care Institute and ZonMw: “This funding is an enormous catalyst for our research on treatment-resistant OCD.”
This funding is an enormous catalyst for our research on treatment-resistant OCD.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can severely limit a person’s life and that of their loved ones. In the Netherlands, at least 100,000 people suffer from OCD. This is characterized by disruptive compulsive thoughts and time-consuming compulsions that can be so disruptive that someone experiences a high level of suffering. They are often unable to work or study and become socially isolated. From a longer-term prospective, roughly 50% of the people with OCD can’t be remedied with existing care (cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication). Currently, there is no good alternative for them. The most far-reaching treatment (brain surgery or deep brain stimulation) is only an option for the most extreme cases.

Research group consists of 250 patients

In the coming years, 250 patients will participate in the research study for a new, promising treatment for OCD led by Amsterdam UMC. This promising treatment is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). “We think that the group that does not benefit sufficiently from cognitive behavioral therapy can be helped with this new rTMS treatmet,” says Van den Heuvel. “We generate an electric current in the brain with the help of a magnetic field. This allows us to stimulate the brain circuit that is responsible for controlling emotions and behavior. By this means we will bring the brain into an optimal condition to increase the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy.” Patients will undergo rTMS treatment four times a week for a minimum of five weeks and a maximum of seven weeks. Each session is followed by cognitive behavioral therapy.

Catalyst for long-term collaboration

“Without the grant, this new research study would not have been realized,” Van den Heuvel continues. When the results show that rTMS treatment is effective for the group of patients for whom nothing else currently helps, the treatment ends up in the basic insurance. “Additionally, the grant also enables us, as OCD specialists, to achieve national collaboration. I see this as an enormous catalyst, not only for this study in specific, but also for a long-term collaboration which might bring a lot more in the future.”

Picture of Odile van den Heuvel

Source (in Dutch): National Health Care Institute