Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Brain Scan May Predict Improvement in Persons with OCD

Uzi Ben-Ami, Ph.D., is a highly experienced licensed psychologist. Uzi Ben-Ami, Ph.D., has cultivated and applied his in-depth knowledge in a variety of practice areas, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

An intrusive mental health condition, OCD leads a person to experience repetitive thoughts and perform compulsive actions on a regular basis. These thoughts and actions significantly interfere with a person’s daily life and can negatively impact relationships, productivity, and overall quality of life. Many people with OCD find relief through medication and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), but even the combination of medicine and CBT is not effective in every single case.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, are now hoping to reduce the incidence of failed treatment by predicting a person’s likelihood of responding to CBT. The team used a functional MRI (fMRI). Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) is not intrusive or painful. It measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. fMRI scaned the brains of individuals with OCD before and after a four-week intensive CBT program. After evaluating functional connectivity in the brain and symptom severity, researchers entered the data into a machine-learning program.

The machine-learning program accurately predicted which individuals would respond to CBT with an accuracy rate of 70 percent. In addition, the program predicted each individual’s symptoms assessment scores with a minimal margin of error. Hopefully, these results suggest that MRI scanning may one day be an effective pre-treatment evaluation tool, which could save patients the cost of ineffective treatment and would allow clinicians to pursue other methods.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Bleak Look at Tzarist Russia in Mussorgsky’s Opera Khovanshchina

Based in Rockville, Maryland, Uzi Ben-Ami, PhD, maintains a private psychology practice and serves the needs of patients on issues such as parenting, marriage, and anxiety. A classical music aficionado, Uzi Ben-Ami, PhD, has a particular interest in the works of 19th-century composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Modest Mussorgsky.

In 2017, the BBC Symphony Orchestra staged one of the latter composer’s most remarkable operatic pieces, Khovanshchina. Focused on the fallout of the modernization program initiated by Peter the Great in the late 17th century, the prescient work represents a meditation on political reform and autocracy and was left unfinished at the time of Mussorgsky’s death.

Characterized as bleak and unrelenting, the opera alternates solo pieces with those involving dialogues engaging members of large choruses. This creates a sense of predestined fate similar to that in classical tragedy.

At the core of the story is the Khovansky family that formed a faction in Moscow against the tzar and the way in which the clan’s arrogant leader descends into what The Guardian calls “existential defiance” as the world he knows collapses. Not performed until five years after Mussorgsky’s death, the opera is described as unique in presaging the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century.