Response inhibition in a subclinical obsessive-compulsive sample

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;46:66-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.09.001. Epub 2014 Sep 10.


Background and objectives: Inconsistent findings across studies challenge the viability of response inhibition (RI) as an endophenotype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Contemporary conceptualization of endophenotypes in psychiatric disorders suggests that these markers vary continuously in the general population, highlighting the importance of analogue sample research. Although neuropsychological functions have been studied in subclinical obsessive-compulsive (OC) samples, no study to date had examined RI in the context of the go/no-go paradigm.

Methods: A subclinical OC sample (HOC; n = 27) and a low OC symptoms control sample (LOC; n = 25), as determined by the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised, completed a go/no-go task and clinical questionnaires.

Results: The groups did not differ on age, gender, or state anxiety. Controlling for depressive severity, the HOC group made significantly more commission errors and exhibited larger response time variability on the go/no-go task. However, standardized scores produced using population norms revealed that the HOC group performed within normative range.

Limitations: This study used a non-clinical sample and no structured clinical screening was performed.

Conclusions: Compared to LOC participants, a psychometrically-defined subclinical OC sample exhibited deficient RI and sustained attention. However, when raw scores were converted to age and education adjusted standardized scores according to the test's population norms, the HOC group task performance was in the normative range. These results, are in line with findings in OCD samples, suggesting that moderate degree of RI deficiencies is associated with the presence of OC symptomatology regardless of clinical status. However, the conceptualization of RI underperformance as an OCD disorder-specific impairment, remains controversial.

Keywords: Analogue sample; Endophenotype; Executive function; Neuropsychology; OCD; Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Publication types

  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Decision Making
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult