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Dr. Deborah KreissDr. Deborah Kreiss conducts OCD research

Dr. Deborah Kreiss’ research in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a severe, chronic neurological condition that affects from 2 - 3% of the world’s population, has attracted a donation from Solvay Pharmaceuticals. Kreiss, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, has received five grams of Fluvoxamine Maleate valued at approximately $18,550.

“The goal of the current project is to evaluate whether the neurological effects in the rat elicited by mCPP can serve as an animal model of OCD which could be used to improve therapeutic strategies,” said Kreiss. “mCPP-induced effects were selected for study because numerous clinical studies have shown that obsessive symptoms in untreated OCD patients were exacerbated by mCPP.”

Development of novel treatments for OCD has been slowed by the lack of an animal model, according to Kreiss. “An animal model of OCD would enable types of investigative studies to be performed on the brain which would be not ethically feasible to perform in human patients. A few animal models have been proposed to reflect certain aspects of OCD, but no single model has clearly demonstrated predictive validity for OCD. In order for an animal model to have predictive validity for OCD, the effect of psychoactive drugs upon the selected aspect of the animal’s physiology would need to closely correspond to the effect of the drugs in OCD patients,” Kreiss said. “Establishment of an animal model for OCD would greatly facilitate research into new treatments for OCD that are more effective, have fewer side effects, help a greater percent of patients, and have a shorter time course of onset.”

Within the United States, OCD affects approximately 6 million Americans at any one time and is the fourth most common psychiatric illness. Patients diagnosed with OCD experience recurrent, anxiety-producing obsessions and time-consuming compulsions that markedly interfere with the ability to pursue personal, social, and professional goals.

Obsessions are defined as persistent ideas, thoughts, or images that the patient is unable to inhibit or ignore. “Typical obsessions include dirt, germs and contamination; fear of acting on violent or agJuly 10, 2007 of others; abhorrent religious and sexual thoughts; and an inordinate concern with order, arrangement or symmetry. Compulsions are defined as repetitive, stereotypical, and intentional behaviors that are expressed as the patient attempts to decrease the anxiety associated with an obsession. Compulsions exhibited by OCD patients commonly involve excessive washing, particularly of the hands, cleaning, checking, touching, counting, arranging, ordering and hoarding. Persons affected with OCD realize that such thoughts and actions are unreasonable, but nevertheless continue to experience them,” Kreiss said.

Data collection in her OCD research has begun each May and continues to August, according to Kreiss. This is the third summer she has worked on this project at UTC. Seventy to eighty rats are typically involved each summer.

“I predict that within the next year I will have enough results to validate that my animal model of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be used by researchers to learn more about OCD and to develop new treatments. Thereafter, over the next 10 years, I plan to use the animal model to learn more about: the specific parts/circuits of the brain that are involved with OCD; how these brain areas are changed by currently effective medications for OCD; and which new therapeutic strategies may work to better treat OCD.”

Since August of 2004, Kreiss has involved twenty-one undergraduate students in her research. These students have mostly come from the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Psychology. Various aspects of this research have been the basis of seven undergraduate honors theses; four Student Research Provost Awards; a drug donation from Solvay Pharmaceuticals; a Faculty Research Award; a Faculty Summer Stipend Award; two presentations at the annual International Society for Neurosciences Convention; two presentations at the annual national Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Meeting; two presentations at the annual UTC Tri-Beta Honors Society Undergraduate Research Day; and one presentation at the annual University Honors Undergraduate Research conference.

“Alleviation of OCD symptoms with current medications is problematic in that eight to ten weeks of treatment is required to attain effect and approximately 40% of patients do not adequately respond. Further research into novel treatments for OCD is crucial,” Kreiss said.

July 10, 2007