Increased decision thresholds enhance information gathering performance in juvenile Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

PLoS Comput Biol. 2017 Apr 12;13(4):e1005440. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005440. eCollection 2017 Apr.


Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be described as cautious and hesitant, manifesting an excessive indecisiveness that hinders efficient decision making. However, excess caution in decision making may also lead to better performance in specific situations where the cost of extended deliberation is small. We compared 16 juvenile OCD patients with 16 matched healthy controls whilst they performed a sequential information gathering task under different external cost conditions. We found that patients with OCD outperformed healthy controls, winning significantly more points. The groups also differed in the number of draws required prior to committing to a decision, but not in decision accuracy. A novel Bayesian computational model revealed that subjective sampling costs arose as a non-linear function of sampling, closely resembling an escalating urgency signal. Group difference in performance was best explained by a later emergence of these subjective costs in the OCD group, also evident in an increased decision threshold. Our findings present a novel computational model and suggest that enhanced information gathering in OCD can be accounted for by a higher decision threshold arising out of an altered perception of costs that, in some specific contexts, may be advantageous.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Risk-Taking*

Grant support

This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (No. 320030_130237) and the Hartmann Müller Foundation (No. 1460). TUH was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (No. 151641). RJD holds a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award (098362/Z/12/Z). The Wellcome Trust’s Cambridge-UCL Mental Health and Neurosciences Network grant (095844/Z/11/Z) supported RJD, TUH and MM. MM was also supported by the Biomedical Research Council. PD was supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The Max Planck UCL Centre is a joint initiative supported by UCL and the Max Planck Society. The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging is supported by core funding from the Wellcome Trust (091593/Z/10/Z). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.