Working memory as assessed by subject-ordered tasks in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Task Performance and Analysis
We tested patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and normal subjects (n = 18 per group) on a self-paced, working memory task that, based on studies of patients with focal brain lesions and functional brain imaging studies of normals, is largely mediated by prefrontal cortex. The OCD patients had normal working memory spans and normal recognition memory for all types of material tested (abstract words, common objects, and novel nonsense objects). The patients, however, were slow (p < .005), and the time they took to complete the tasks was significantly correlated with ratings of OCD symptoms (r = .539, p < .05) and depression (r = .643, p < .01), but not anxiety. Slowed performance on this self-paced task was discussed in relation to normal response times by OCD patients under typical laboratory conditions. It was suggested that this discrepancy may be related to a broader dissociation between real-world and laboratory performance as seen in some patients with prefrontal lobe dysfunction.