Effectiveness of Deep Brain Stimulation for Treating People with Treatment Resistant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


About this study

This study will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of deep brain stimulation in treating people with severe and otherwise treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Participation eligibility

Participant eligibility includes age, gender, type and stage of disease, and previous treatments or health concerns. Guidelines differ from study to study, and identify who can or cannot participate. There is no guarantee that every individual who qualifies and wants to participate in a trial will be enrolled. Contact the study team to discuss study eligibility and potential participation.

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), diagnosed by Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-IV)
  • Presence of disabling severity, as assessed by a Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) score of at least 30
  • Impaired functioning, indicated by a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 45 or less
  • Documented highly treatment refractory illness; the documentation must demonstrate persistence of severe symptoms and impairment for 5 or more years despite at least three first-line and two second-line treatments, as follows:
    1. at least three adequate trials of, or documented intolerance to, different serotonin transporter inhibitors (e.g., fluoxetine, sertraline, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, citalopram, escitalopram, clomipramine) for at least 3 months at the maximum tolerated dose. These trials may include any of the agents above, but must include an adequate course of clomipramine, either alone or in combination with a more selective serotonin transporter inhibitor;
    2. augmentation of one of the selective serotonin transporter inhibitors with clomipramine, and a neuroleptic (each for at least 2 weeks); and
    3. adequate behavior therapy (more than 20 sessions of exposure and response prevention by a therapist with substantial expertise in OCD treatment as determined by the investigators) with at least one of these trials and tried in combination with medication therapy
  • Either drug free or on a stable drug regimen for at least 6 weeks before study entry
  • General good overall health
  • If possible, has a family member or significant other who sees the participant regularly, can communicate with the study team as needed, and, if necessary, can attend study visits
  • Local referring psychiatrist willing to provide ongoing care during and after the trial, to work closely with the research team, and to agree that the study psychiatrist will prescribe medications during the 3-month masked phase
  • Platelet count greater than 125,000 per cubic millimeter and a prothrombin time and partial thromboplastin time within normal limits

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Current or past psychotic disorder
  • Full-scale IQ below 75 on the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), or cognitive impairment that would affect a participant's ability to give informed consent or provide interview or self-report data reliably, as determined by the Consent Monitor and the site psychiatrist.
  • A clinical history of bipolar mood disorder
  • Any current clinically significant neurological disorder or medical illness affecting brain function, other than a tic disorder
  • Any clinically significant abnormality on preoperative MRI
  • Any labeled DBS contraindication, inability to undergo presurgical MRI (e.g., cardiac pacemaker, pregnancy, metal in body, severe claustrophobia), infection, coagulopathy, inability to undergo an awake operation, significant cardiac risk factors, or other medical risk factors for surgery
  • Current or unstable remitted substance abuse or dependence
  • Positive urine toxicology screen for substance abuse
  • Pregnant and/or woman of childbearing age not using effective forms of birth control
  • Clinical history of severe personality disorder
  • An inability to control suicide attempts, imminent risk of suicide in the investigator's judgment, or a history of serious suicidal behavior, which is defined using the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) as either (1) one or more actual suicide attempts in the 3 years before study entry with the lethality rated at 3 or higher, or (2) one or more interrupted suicide attempts with a potential lethality judged to result in serious injury or death
  • Current diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder
  • Evidence of dementia of other significant cognitive impairment on neuropsychological evaluation

Participating Mayo Clinic locations

Study statuses change often. Please contact the study team for the most up-to-date information regarding possible participation.

Mayo Clinic Location Status

Rochester, Minn.

Mayo Clinic principal investigator

William Bobo, M.D., M.P.H.

Closed for enrollment

More information


  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule has been shown to be beneficial in the short term for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients who exhaust conventional therapies. Nuttin et al, who published the first DBS for OCD series, found promising results using a capsule target immediately rostral to the anterior commissure extending into adjacent ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS). Published long-term outcome data are limited to four patients. In this collaborative study, 10 adult OCD patients meeting stringent criteria for severity and treatment resistance had quadripolar stimulating leads implanted bilaterally in the VC/VS. DBS was activated openly 3 weeks later. Eight patients have been followed for at least 36 months. Group Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) scores decreased from 34.6+/-0.6 (mean+/-SEM) at baseline (severe) to 22.3+/-2.1 (moderate) at 36 months (p < 0.001). Four of eight patients had a > or =35% decrease in YBOCS severity at 36 months; in two patients, scores declined between 25 and 35%. Global Assessment of Functioning scores improved from 36.6+/-1.5 at baseline to 53.8+/-2.5 at 36 months (p < 0.001). Depression and anxiety also improved, as did self-care, independent living, and work, school, and social functioning. Surgical adverse effects included an asymptomatic hemorrhage, a single seizure, and a superficial infection. Psychiatric adverse effects included transient hypomanic symptoms, and worsened depression and OCD when DBS was interrupted by stimulator battery depletion. This open study found promising long-term effects of DBS in highly treatment-resistant OCD. Read More on PubMed

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