Atypical neurocognitive functioning in children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2023 Nov 2. doi: 10.1007/s00787-023-02301-w. Online ahead of print.


Atypical neurocognitive functioning has been found in adult patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, little work has been done in children and adolescents with OCD. In this study, we investigated neurocognitive functioning in a large and representative sample of newly diagnosed children and adolescents with OCD compared to non-psychiatric controls. Children and adolescents with OCD (n = 119) and non-psychiatric controls (n = 90) underwent psychopathological assessment, intelligence testing, and a neurocognitive test battery spanning cognitive flexibility, planning and decision-making, working memory, fluency, and processing speed. The MANOVA main effect revealed that children and adolescents with OCD performed significantly worse than the control group (p < .001, [Formula: see text] = 0.256). Atypical patient performance was particularly found for indices of cognitive flexibility, decision-making, working memory, and processing speed. We found no evidence of differences in planning or fluency. Moreover, we found no significant associations between neurocognitive performance and OCD symptom severity or comorbidity status. Our results indicate that children and adolescents with OCD show selective atypical neurocognitive functioning. These difficulties do not appear to drive their OCD symptoms. However, they may contribute to lifespan difficulties and interfere with treatment efficacy, an objective of our research currently.

Keywords: Adolescent; Case–control studies; Child; Cognition; Obsessive–compulsive disorder.