Early cognitive processes in OCD: An ERP study

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9 Scopus citations


Background: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by persistent, intrusive, and distressing obsessions and/or compulsions and is associated with marked impairments in quality of life. The goal of the present study was to examine initial stages of information processing, specifically, perceptual and attention orientation phases that precede response preparation in OCD. Methods: The P3 event-related potential (ERP) component was used as a measure of early cognitive processes of visual stimulus perception. ERPs were recorded while 38 participants diagnosed with OCD and 38 healthy controls performed a passive visual oddball task with neutral and angry schematic faces. Results: OCD participants demonstrated significantly enhanced P3 amplitude over bilateral parietal areas in response to neutral stimuli that activate basic primary perceptual processes. Emotional valence reduced this effect such that OCD patients did not differ from healthy controls in P3 amplitude under the angry stimuli condition. Limitations: Patients in this study were noncomorbid and unmedicated partially limiting the generalizability of the results. Conclusions: Our hypothesis of altered early perceptual processes in OCD was supported. These alterations, specific to OCD and not anxiety and depression symptoms, may represent distracted primary cognitive processes in OCD, possibly serving as a basic source for compulsion initiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-436
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • ERP
  • OCD
  • P3
  • Valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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