Neuropsychological functioning of children with obsessive -compulsive disorder

Scott Greisberg, Fordham University


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition marked by frequent, intrusive thoughts and behaviors. It stands to reason that such unwanted cognitive disruption could be associated with neuropsychological differences. However, to date, there have been few consistent findings with respect to the neuropsychology of OCD and fewer conducted with children. The adult literature on the neuropsychology of OCD had uncovered some focal executive dysfunction and a resultant difficulty on tasks of memory. The prior research on children with OCD obtained null findings but suffered from small sample size and a failure to adequately match samples. In the present study, OCD symptom severity, comorbid diagnoses, executive functioning, verbal memory, and nonverbal memory were assessed in children with OCD. The sample of 31 children ranged in age from 6 to 12 years. The IQ of the sample was elevated, particularly Verbal IQ. The children performed adequately on the executive functioning and verbal memory instruments but performed poorly on the visual memory tasks. For verbal and nonverbal memory, there was support for recall strategy being related to recall ability. This supported the finding in adults of memory deficits being mediated by strategy, considered to be a type of executive functioning. Symptom severity and duration of illness were found to be unrelated to neuropsychological variables. The interpretability of the neuropsychological results was limited by sample size, elevated IQ scores, and diagnostic heterogeneity, in that many of the children had ADHD and other behavioral conditions. These results supported the notion that executive functioning, in the form of strategy selection, may be impaired in OCD. Future research should further assess executive functioning in this population using more sensitive and specific instruments while accounting for the possibility of diagnostic heterogeneity and elevated IQ scores.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Greisberg, Scott, "Neuropsychological functioning of children with obsessive -compulsive disorder" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3169383.