By Amy Ellis Nutt
March 21, 2016


The computer screen and joystick are similar to those used with many virtual-reality games. It’s just that at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the players compete while lying inside a highly sensitive MRI scanner.


In one challenge, the youths maneuver through a maze of corridors, searching for bright green dollar signs. Another tests their ability to recognize an error on the screen. All the while, the scanner is photographing “slices” of their brains. The ultimate reward is far more than a game: In the first clinical trial of its kind, those multi-band images are mapping the unknown territory of obsessive-compulsive disorder.