Symptom-specific attentional bias to threatening stimuli in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Mara Sizino Da Victoria, Antonio Leandro Nascimento, Leonardo F. Fontenelle

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: There is mixed evidence as to whether patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have excessive attentional engagement and emotional response to OCD-related stimuli in the environment. Here we investigate the occurrence of an attentional bias toward specific OCD-related stimuli and its relationship with obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions. Methods: Forty-eight patients with OCD participated in an attentional bias task containing OCD- and non-OCD-related stimuli and had their performance compared with that of 24 age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy control subjects. Severity of obsessive-compulsive and comorbid depressive symptoms was assessed using the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised and the Beck Depression Inventory, respectively. Results: Although there were significant and almost significant group effects on the reaction time (RT) toward OCD- and non-OCD-related figures, respectively, no difference between patients with OCD and controls was noted with regard to RT toward OCD-related figures minus RT toward non-OCD-related figures. Nevertheless, within the OCD group, partial correlational analysis controlled for age and severity of depression unveiled positive correlations between (1) obsessional symptoms and RT toward checking-related pictures and (2) ordering symptoms and RT toward ordering-related pictures. Conclusions: The positive correlations between RT to content-specific stimuli and the severity of corresponding obsessive-compulsive symptoms suggest that patients with OCD experience difficulty in disengaging attention from personally salient stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-788
Number of pages6
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

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