Investigation of attentional bias in obsessive compulsive disorder with and without depression in visual search.


Whether Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is associated with an increased attentional bias to emotive stimuli remains controversial. Additionally, it is unclear whether comorbid depression modulates abnormal emotional processing in OCD. This study examined attentional bias to OC-relevant scenes using a visual search task. Controls, non-depressed and depressed OCD patients searched for their personally selected positive images amongst their negative distractors, and vice versa. Whilst the OCD groups were slower than healthy individuals in rating the images, there were no group differences in the magnitude of negative bias to concern-related scenes. A second experiment employing a common set of images replicated the results on an additional sample of OCD patients. Although there was a larger bias to negative OC-related images without pre-exposure overall, no group differences in attentional bias were observed. However, OCD patients subsequently rated the images more slowly and more negatively, again suggesting post-attentional processing abnormalities. The results argue against a robust attentional bias in OCD patients, regardless of their depression status and speak to generalized difficulties disengaging from negative valence stimuli. Rather, post-attentional processing abnormalities may account for differences in emotional processing in OCD.