The present study examines the interplay between cognitive deficits and emotional context in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobia (SP). Specifically, this study examines whether the inflexible use of efficient learning strategies in an emotional context underlies impairments in probabilistic classification learning (PCL) in OCD, and whether PCL impairments are specific to OCD. Twenty-three participants with OCD, 30 participants with SP and 30 healthy controls completed a neutral and an OCD-specific PCL task. OCD participants failed to adopt efficient learning strategies and showed fewer beneficial strategy switches than controls only in an OCD-specific context, but not in a neutral context. Additionally, OCD participants did not show any explicit memory impairments. Number of beneficial strategy switches in the OCD-specific task mediated the difference in PCL performance between OCD and control participants. Individuals with SP were impaired in both PCL tasks. In contrast to neuropsychological models postulating general cognitive impairments in OCD, the present findings suggest that it is the interaction between cognition and emotion that is impaired in OCD. Specifically, activated disorder-specific fears may impair the flexible adoption of efficient learning strategies and compromise otherwise unimpaired PCL. Impairments in PCL are not specific to OCD.
A tendency to overestimate threat has been shown in individuals with OCD. We tested the hypothesis that this bias in judgment is related to difficulties in learning probabilistic associations between events. Thirty participants with OCD and 30 matched healthy controls completed a learning experiment involving 2 variants of a probabilistic classification learning task. In the neutral weather-prediction task, rainy and sunny weather had to be predicted. In the emotional task danger of an epidemic from virus infection had to be predicted (epidemic-prediction task). Participants with OCD were as able as controls to improve their prediction of neutral events across learning trials but scored significantly below healthy controls on the epidemic-prediction task. Lower performance on the emotional task variant was significantly related to a heightened tendency to overestimate threat. Biased information processing in OCD might thus hamper corrective experiences regarding the probability of threatening events.
Recent research has demonstrated that depressed individuals show impairments in inhibiting irrelevant emotional material, and that these impairments are linked to rumination. Cognitive inhibition, however, is not a unitary construct but consists of several components which operate at different stages of information processing. The present study was designed to assess two components of inhibition and examine their relation to depression and rumination in a sample of clinically depressed and healthy control participants.
Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) has been found to be involved in the maintenance of several types of emotional problems and has therefore been suggested to be a transdiagnostic process. However, existing measures of RNT typically focus on a particular disorder-specific content. In this article, the preliminary validation of a content-independent self-report questionnaire of RNT is presented. The 15-item Perseverative Thinking Questionnaire was evaluated in two studies (total N = 1832), comprising non-clinical as well as clinical participants. Results of confirmatory factor analyses across samples supported a second-order model with one higher-order factor representing RNT in general and three lower-order factors representing (1) the core characteristics of RNT (repetitiveness, intrusiveness, difficulties with disengagement), (2) perceived unproductiveness of RNT and (3) RNT capturing mental capacity. High internal consistencies and high re-test reliability were found for the total scale and all three subscales. The validity of the Perseverative Thinking Questionnaire was supported by substantial correlations with existing measures of RNT and associations with symptom levels and clinical diagnoses of depression and anxiety. Results suggest the usefulness of the new measure for research into RNT as a transdiagnostic process.
Recent research has shown that depression is characterized by difficulties inhibiting irrelevant emotional material and that these difficulties are linked to rumination. The present study examined the relation among tasks that assess different aspects of interference control, depressive symptoms, and rumination, cross-sectionally and in a 6-months follow-up. 111 participants completed an emotional flanker task to assess individual differences in resolving interference from simultaneously presented irrelevant stimuli. In addition, participants completed two negative affective priming tasks using word and face stimuli to assess difficulty controlling interference from internal representations of previously rejected material. Six months after the initial session, depressive symptoms and rumination were re-assessed. Depressive symptoms at time 1 were related to individual differences in negative priming for verbal as well as pictorial material, but not to individual differences in interference resolution from simultaneously presented external stimuli in the flanker task. Individual differences in negative priming at time 1 further predicted depressive symptoms and rumination at time 2. These results suggest that depressive symptoms are related to impaired interference control for verbal and pictorial information and provide first evidence that individual differences in interference control predict the maintenance of depressive symptoms and rumination over a period of six months.
Correlational studies have shown that trauma-related rumination predicts chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study aimed to experimentally test the hypothesis that rumination is causally involved in the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms. A video depicting the aftermath of serious road traffic accidents was used as an analogue stressor. After having watched the video, N=101 healthy participants were randomly assigned to a guided thinking task designed to induce (a) rumination, (b) memory integration and (c) distraction. In line with the hypotheses, rumination led to less recovery from sad mood triggered by the video than the other two conditions. In addition, self-reported state levels of rumination during the guided thinking task predicted subsequent intrusive memories in the session. However, no significant main effect of the experimental manipulation on intrusive memories of the video was found. Results of exploratory analyses suggested possible sex differences in the way the processing manipulations were effective. Taken together, the results partially support the hypothesis that rumination is involved in the maintenance of negative mood and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Regional brain volumes were compared between 23 participants with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and 36 healthy controls using magnetic resonance imaging with voxel-based morphometry. A volumetric decrease in OCD was found in the right mediofrontal cortex. An increase was found in the left temporoparietal cortex. Volume alterations were related to symptom severity and age of onset.
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