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Learning, memory problems seen in adolescents with OCD

Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder have learning and memory problems that could affect their self-esteem, researchers say


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Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have learning and memory problems, research shows.

A study published in Psychological Medicine looked at whether cognitive flexibility for learning tasks and goal-directed control – such as focusing on a specific task like learning to drive – was impaired early in the development of OCD.

Research led by the University of Cambridge assessed 36 adolescents with OCD and 36 without it, asking them to complete learning and memory tasks. The tests included recognition and episodic memory.

Problems at school

A subset of 30 participants in each group also carried out a task designed to assess the balance of goal-directed and habitual behavioural control.

The researchers found that adolescent patients with OCD had impairments in all learning and memory tasks.

The researchers believe it is the first time impaired goal-directed control and lack of cognitive plasticity early in the development of OCD has been demonstrated.

They say learning and memory problems at school could affect adolescents’ self-esteem.


Gottwald J et al (2018) Impaired cognitive plasticity and goal-directed control in adolescent obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychological Medicine. doi:10.1017/S0033291717003464

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