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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Mar 2;45(4):654-62. Epub 2006 Sep 26.

A neuropsychological comparison of obsessive-compulsive disorder and trichotillomania.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.



Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) share overlapping co-morbidity, familial transmission, and phenomenology. However, the extent to which these disorders share a common cognitive phenotype has yet to be elucidated using patients without confounding co-morbidities.


To compare neurocognitive functioning in co-morbidity-free patients with OCD and trichotillomania, focusing on domains of learning and memory, executive function, affective processing, reflection-impulsivity and decision-making.


Twenty patients with OCD, 20 patients with trichotillomania, and 20 matched controls undertook neuropsychological assessment after meeting stringent inclusion criteria.


Groups were matched for age, education, verbal IQ, and gender. The OCD and trichotillomania groups were impaired on spatial working memory. Only OCD patients showed additional impairments on executive planning and visual pattern recognition memory, and missed more responses to sad target words than other groups on an affective go/no-go task. Furthermore, OCD patients failed to modulate their behaviour between conditions on the reflection-impulsivity test, suggestive of cognitive inflexibility. Both clinical groups showed intact decision-making and probabilistic reversal learning.


OCD and trichotillomania shared overlapping spatial working memory problems, but neuropsychological dysfunction in OCD spanned additional domains that were intact in trichotillomania. Findings are discussed in relation to likely fronto-striatal neural substrates and future research directions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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