Category: Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders

Symposium

Task Control in OCD Patients: A New Treatment Target?

Saturday, November 18
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom A, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) | Neuroscience | Neurocognitive Therapies
Presentation Type: Symposium

Studies that have investigated inhibition in OCD yielded inconsistent results with small effect sizes and failed to demonstrate direct relation to OCD symptoms. Task control is a proactive mechanism aimed at inhibiting unwanted stimuli-driven behaviors allowing goal directed task selection. Healthy adults’ task control mechanism is commonly very efficient; thus, unwanted behaviors are normally suppressed with minimal effort. Two common tasks to investigate task control are the Stroop task and the Object Interference task (OI). In both tasks participants are asked to name the ink color of a written word (Stroop) or a picture (OI) while ignoring the meaning of the word (Stroop) or abstract form (OI). Large Stroop interference (i.e., RT for incongruent trails – RT for neutral trials), small (or even reversed) Stroop facilitation (i.e., RT for neutral trails – RT for congruent trials), and OI effect (RT for namable objects – RT for abstract forms) are reliable measures of deficient task control. OCD patients and healthy controls completed the Stroop task (Exp. 1), the OI, Flanker-arrow, and stop-signal tasks (Exp. 2). Indications for task control deficit in OCD patients were found in both the Stroop and OI tasks. In the Stroop task, OCD patients also exhibit difficulties to adaptively adjust their control levels, as indicated by the finding that OCD patients had very similar results in blocks consistent of high and low proportions of neutral trails. In the OI task, OCD patients, but not healthy control or anxiety patients, were found to have a significant OI effect which also correlated with symptoms severity (r = 0.48, p < .01). No group differences were found in the Flanker-arrow and stop-signal tasks. A deficit in proactive task control, which is likely to result in a lower ability to suppress associative tasks, might underlie repetitive behaviors in OCD. To investigate this hypotheses we tested a novel computerized task control training program to augment exposure and response prevention therapy on a group of treatment refractory OCD patients (Exp. 3) and found a significant reduction (mean =18, SD=6) in symptom severity after a relatively short intervention.

Eyal Kalanthroff

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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