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Brain Scans of 'Hoarders' Show Unique Abnormalities
Date:8/6/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- People with "hoarding disorder" show abnormalities in brain scans that distinguish them from those who have other types of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), new research shows.

"We wanted to see whether the brain activity of people who hoard is different from that of people with OCD, and whether it is different from that of healthy people," explained study author David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center and Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy within the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn. "We also wanted to understand whether people who hoard show an abnormal brain response to decisions about whether to keep things or throw them away," he noted.

"These findings further suggest that hoarding should be considered separate from OCD, and that it deserves recognition as a unique psychiatric disorder," Tolin said. "It also shows us that people who hoard have a hard time processing information normally, and that when they have to make a decision their brain goes into overdrive -- specifically, those parts that are involved with identifying the relative importance or significance of things."

Tolin and his colleagues report their findings in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

To explore brain activity as it related to hoarding disorder behavior, the researchers focused on a pool of 107 adults: 33 healthy men and women; 31 patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder; and 43 patients diagnosed with hoarding disorder.

Study participants were first asked to bring to the lab some of their own paper objects (such as junk mail and newspapers) from home. Each was also given similar paper objects that they did not own.

Then, each person was asked to decide whether or not to keep each individual item, knowing that all discarded items would subsequently be shredded. Throughout the decis
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