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Psychol Med. 2005 Apr;35(4):571-82.

Executive function in Tourette's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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  • 1MRC Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.



Cognitive performance was compared in the genetically and neurobiologically related disorders of Tourette's syndrome (TS) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), in three domains of executive function: planning, decision-making and inhibitory response control.


Twenty TS patients, twenty OCD patients and a group of age- and IQ-matched normal controls completed psychometric and computerized cognitive tests and psychiatric rating scales. The cognitive tests were well-characterized in terms of their sensitivity to other fronto-striatal disorders, and included pattern and spatial recognition memory, attentional set-shifting, and a Go/No-go set-shifting task, planning, and decision-making.


Compared to controls, OCD patients showed selective deficits in pattern recognition memory and slower responding in both pattern and spatial recognition, impaired extra-dimensional shifting on the set-shifting test and impaired reversal of response set on the Go/No-go test. In contrast, TS patients were impaired in spatial recognition memory, extra-dimensional set-shifting, and decision-making. Neither group was impaired in planning. Direct comparisons between the TS and OCD groups revealed significantly different greater deficits for recognition memory latency and Go/No-go reversal for the OCD group, and quality of decision-making for the TS group.


TS and OCD show both differences (recognition memory, decision-making) and similarities (set-shifting) in selective profiles of cognitive function. Specific set-shifting deficits in the OCD group contrasted with their intact performance on other tests of executive function, such as planning and decision-making, and suggested only limited involvement of frontal lobe dysfunction, possibly consistent with OCD symptomatology.

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