Neuropsychological deficits in obsessive-compulsive disorder: A comparison with unipolar depression, panic disorder, and normal controls

R. Purcell, Paul T. Maruff, Michael Kyrios, Christos Pantelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

274 Citations (Scopus)


Background The neuropsychological dysfunction associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has similarities to the deficits reported in other affective or anxiety disorders. We directly compared cognitive function in patients with OCD with that in matched patients with unipolar depression and panic disorder and healthy control subjects to establish the specific nature of neuropsychological deficits in OCD.

Methods Thirty patients with OCD, 30 patients with panic disorder, 20 patients with unipolar depression, and 30 controls completed a computerized neuropsychological battery that assessed the accuracy and latency of executive, visual memory, and attentional functions.

Results The groups did not differ according to age, years of education, or estimated IQ. However, we found group differences in cognitive performance. The patients with OCD were impaired on measures of spatial working memory, spatial recognition, and motor initiation and execution. In contrast, performance of these tasks by patients with panic disorder or depression did not differ from that of controls. There were no group differences for performance on the measures of planning, cognitive speed, pattern recognition, and delayed matching to sample, although patients with depression were impaired for attentional set shifting.

Conclusions Neuropsychological deficits were observed in patients with OCD that were not observed in matched patients with panic disorder or unipolar depression. As such, the cognitive dysfunction in OCD appears to be related to the specific illness processes associated with the disorder
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • pathophysiology
  • cognitive impairment
  • neuropsychological


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