Emotional processing and disgust sensitivity in OCD patients with and without contamination-type obsessive-compulsive symptoms - An fMRI study

Judith Rickelt*, Stella J. de Wit, Ysbrand D. van der Werf, Koen R. J. Schruers, Machteld Marcelis, Froukje E. de Vries, Odile A. van den Heuvel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)


Objective: Disgust is described as a relevant emotion in OCD, particularly in contamination-type OCD, and may be involved in emotional processing in this OCD-subtype. The present study aimed to investigate the neural correlates of distress processing in contamination-type compared to non-contamination-type OCD, and the relation to disgust sensitivity.

Methods: Forty-three OCD patients (n = 19 contamination-type OCD) were exposed to OCD-related, fear-related and neutral pictures. Subjective distress per stimulus was assessed by a visual analogue scale (VAS) and disgust sensitivity by the DS-R. BOLD brain activation was compared between stimuli that provoked high versus low distress at individual level.

Results: In contamination- and non-contamination-type OCD, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, operculum, visual association cortex and caudate nucleus were activated during high versus low distress. Only in contamination-type OCD, disgust sensitivity correlated positively with the VAS scores and was associated with neural activation in the dorsomedial and visual association cortex, but not with the operculum.

Conclusions: Brain activation during distress processing in OCD is similar across the OCD subtypes and related to effortful emotion regulation, processing of aversive internal states and attention. In contamination-type OCD, the distress response is related to disgust sensitivity, which correlates with brain regions associated with attention and emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100443
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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