Research has revealed enlarged error-related negativity (ERN) in people with OCD. ERN is a negative deflection of an event-related potential that peaks within 100 milliseconds after an incorrect response. Enlarged ENTs apparently reflect overactive performance monitoring involving an alarm signal to increase cognitive control. Hanna et al. (2016) tested associations between the ERN and CBCL syndrome scores in 80 8-18-year-olds with OCD and 80 without OCD.
The participants performed a “flanker” task in which a computer displayed rows of arrows that were all pointing in the same direction or that included a middle arrow pointing in the opposite direction. Participants responded by pressing buttons to indicate the direction of the middle arrow. EEG recordings tracked event-related potentials occurring with the participants’ responses.
As found in other studies, ERN amplitudes were significantly higher for participants with OCD than for those without OCD. Moreover, multiple regression analyses revealed that “The ERN amplitude was more strongly associated with the CBCL Withdrawn/Depressed scale scores than with any other clinical variable including lifetime OCD diagnosis, demonstrating the utility of including a dimensional classification of psychopathology in psychophysiologic studies” (p. 911).
Hanna, G.L., Liu, Y., Isaacs, Y.E., Ayoub, A.M., Torres, J.J., O’Hara, N.B., & Gehring, W.J. (2016). Withdrawn/depressed behaviors and error-related brain activity in youth with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55, 906-933.