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Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Dec 1;35(8):1977-82. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2011.07.005. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

A selective impairment in attentional disengagement from erotica in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 301 Wilson Hall, 111 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203, USA.


Although an attentional bias for threat has been implicated in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), evidence supporting such a bias has been inconsistent. Furthermore, few studies have made distinctions between attentional capture vs. attentional disengagement and the extent to which different emotional content modulates attention in OCD also remains unclear. To address these issues, we examined patients with OCD (n=30) and controls (n=30) during an emotional attentional blink paradigm in which participants searched for a target embedded within a series of rapidly presented images. Critically, an erotic, fear, disgust, or neutral distracter image appeared 200 ms or 800 ms before the target. Impaired target detection was observed among OCD patients relative to controls following erotic distracters, but only when presented 800 ms, and not 200 ms, prior to the target, indicating difficulty with attentional disengagement. Difficulty disengaging from erotic images was significantly correlated with OCD symptoms in the full sample but not with symptoms of trait anxiety. These data delineate a specific information processing abnormality in OCD.

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