Journal of Undergraduate Research


cognitive control, obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




This project was an in-depth statistical analysis of previously collected data in order to explore the hypothesis that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is associated with a decrease in the ability to regulate behavior and to apply top-down cognitive control. OCD has been diagnosed in approximately 2.2 million Americans, typically appearing in early adulthood. Approximately half of these cases show severe functional impairment (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, & Walters, 2005). Obsessions are defined as unwanted and recurrent thoughts or impulses, and compulsions are repetitive behaviors that are driven by these obsessions, such as ordering or counting (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). 20% to 30% of adults with OCD have poor insight, meaning they are unaware of the severity of their illness, which has been shown to correlate with the inability to control OCD tendencies (Jacob, Larson & Storch, 2014). Emerging literature suggests that OCD-related impairment is related to poor cognitive control, which is the ability to regulate thoughts and behaviors in accord with internal goals (Miller & Cohen, 1999). However, it is unclear what specific aspects of cognitive control contribute to OCD-related difficulties and functional impairment. We aimed to examine the association between cognitive control abilities, functional impairment, and OCD symptom severity. A better understanding of a patient’s cognitive ability may explain the inability to overcome compulsions that affect day-to-day functioning.