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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is associated with altered processing in brain regions involved in conflict resolution. However, limited research has examined the extent to which conflict from emotional distracters characterizes OCD such that responsiveness to task-irrelevant emotional stimuli is altered compared to controls. In the present study, 16 patients with OCD and 15 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during resolution of conflict from emotional or nonemotional distracters. Results in healthy controls demonstrated that rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and medial superior frontal gyrus (MSFG) showed greater activation for high conflict versus low conflict. Responses in these regions differed between the emotional and nonemotional distracter tasks, with rACC and MSFG having greater activation for conflict from nonemotional distracters and anterior MFG showing greater activation for conflict from emotional distracters. Furthermore, between-group differences revealed a region in right posterior MFG in which controls similarly exhibited greater activation during high conflict versus low conflict with emotional distracters; however, OCD patients showed the opposite pattern with greater activation during low conflict compared to high conflict. These findings suggest that activity of right posterior MFG may be relevant in better understanding inefficient responding during emotional conflict in OCD.
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