Obsessive‐compulsive disorder in children and youth: neurocognitive function in clinic and community samples
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BackgroundNeurocognitive impairments are common in OCD, although not well studied in children and youth with the disorder.
MethodUsing the stop-signal task (SST), we measured response inhibition (stop-signal reaction time-SSRT), sustained attention (reaction time variability-RTV), reaction time (RT), and performance monitoring (post-error slowing-PES) in OCD cases and controls from two samples of children and youth. A Clinic OCD group (n = 171, aged 7-17 years) was recruited from a specialty clinic after rigorous assessment. A typically developing (Clinic TD, n = 157) group was enlisted through advertisement. A community OCD sample (Community OCD, n = 147) and controls (Community TD n = 13,832, aged 6-17 years) were recruited at a science museum. We also identified a community group with high OCD traits without an OCD diagnosis (Community High Trait; n = 125).
ResultsClinic OCD participants had longer SSRT and greater RTV than Clinic TD. These effects were greater in younger OCD participants and, for SSRT, in those on medication for OCD. The Community OCD group did not differ from Controls but was similar to the Clinic OCD group in ADHD and ASD comorbidity and medication usage. The Community High Trait group had longer SSRT and atypical PES suggesting that symptom severity predicts neurocognitive function. No group differences were found in RT.
ConclusionsIn the largest study of neurocognitive performance in children with OCD to date, we found impaired response inhibition and sustained attention in OCD participants in comparison to typically developing peers. Performance was worse in younger OCD participants. In the community sample, participants with high OCD trait scores but no OCD diagnosis had impaired response inhibition and error processing, suggesting that OCD might be under-recognized.
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