An investigation of working memory ability, executive functioning and judgment of learning in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Karen Daddona, Fordham University


Neuropsychological functioning in individuals with OCD has been an area of recent focus, in effort to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. In particular, the literature has explored the possibility of executive functioning and memory deficits in OCD. The current study extended this line of research to compare neuropsychological functioning in OCD to that of other anxiety disorders, including an exploration of judgment of learning. A total of twenty-one participants were recruited from two clinical sites and the community: eleven diagnosed with OCD and ten diagnosed with another anxiety disorder. The variables of interest included verbal and visual working memory, judgment of learning and executive functioning. Verbal working memory was assessed using Letter-Number Sequencing, visual working memory through a computerized task and executive functioning with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Judgment of learning was assessed by asking the participants to estimate the accuracy of their performance. Based on earlier research findings, it was postulated that participants with OCD would exhibit greater difficulty on all neuropsychological tests, compared to participants with other anxiety disorders. In addition, it was hypothesized that there would be a positive relationship between obsessive-compulsive symptom severity and the discrepancy between the participant's judgment of learning and true accuracy. There were no significant differences between the two groups on the verbal working memory task. A moderate effect for group was detected for group on the visual working memory task, with individuals with OCD making greater number of errors and receiving lower scores on measures of sensitivity. These effects were stronger at the most difficult level of the visual working memory task. There were no effects for group on judgment of learning. Across all participants, judgment discrepancy was significantly correlated with time spent occupied by obsessive thoughts, degree of control over obsessions and time occupied by compulsions. With regard to executive functioning, there was a significant large effect for group on total number of categories completed on the WCST; individuals with OCD completed significantly fewer categories. Limitations of the current study are addressed. A better understanding of neuropsychological differences in anxiety disorders might impact current treatment models.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Daddona, Karen, "An investigation of working memory ability, executive functioning and judgment of learning in obsessive-compulsive disorder" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3377043.