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Elife. 2016 Mar 1;5. pii: e11305. doi: 10.7554/eLife.11305.

Characterizing a psychiatric symptom dimension related to deficits in goal-directed control.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, United States.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
3
Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
4
Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, United States.
5
Department of Psychology, University College Dublin, Dulbin, Ireland.
6
Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, United States.
7
Nathan Kline Institute, New York, United States.
8
Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, United States.
9
Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, United States.

Abstract

Prominent theories suggest that compulsive behaviors, characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction, are driven by shared deficits in goal-directed control, which confers vulnerability for developing rigid habits. However, recent studies have shown that deficient goal-directed control accompanies several disorders, including those without an obvious compulsive element. Reasoning that this lack of clinical specificity might reflect broader issues with psychiatric diagnostic categories, we investigated whether a dimensional approach would better delineate the clinical manifestations of goal-directed deficits. Using large-scale online assessment of psychiatric symptoms and neurocognitive performance in two independent general-population samples, we found that deficits in goal-directed control were most strongly associated with a symptom dimension comprising compulsive behavior and intrusive thought. This association was highly specific when compared to other non-compulsive aspects of psychopathology. These data showcase a powerful new methodology and highlight the potential of a dimensional, biologically-grounded approach to psychiatry research.

KEYWORDS:

compulsive; computational; dimensional; goal-directed; habit; human; human biology; medicine; neuroscience; psychiatry

PMID:
26928075
PMCID:
PMC4786435
DOI:
10.7554/eLife.11305
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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