Certain Neurological Markers May Indicate OCD

The broad spectrum of mental illness is classified by unique conditions and symptoms. Each psychological issue has its own hallmark traits, risk factors and manifestations. But many overlap in several areas, including behavioral, emotional, and even neurological. In fact, research has shown that many psychological conditions share neurological deficits and impairments.

In a recent study by Nemat Jaafari of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, neurological soft signs (NSS) were studied to determine whether they are illness-specific, or whether there are certain NSS that are associated only with obsessive-compulsion (OCD). Neurological soft signs are cognitive deficits that affect reflexes, motor coordination, and sensory processing. When these NSS are present in the absence of any neurological disorder, it could indicate a psychological vulnerability.

Research has shown some links between NSS and schizophrenia, substance misuse, antisocial personality, bipolar, posttraumatic stress, and OCD. But for this study, Jaafari wanted to see if these particular NSS, which are usually elevated in individuals with OCD were unique to OCD only. Jaafari conducted two studies involving 85 participants with OCD and 88 control participants. Additionally, Jaafari analyzed data from 15 existing studies on NSS and OCD.

The results revealed that NSS scores were higher in the OCD participants than in the controls. In the study sample of participants, the effect sizes were substantial. But in the analysis, the effect sizes were even larger. This finding suggests that individuals with OCD are likely to have impaired reflexes, sensory processing, and motor coordination. Whether these impairments are a result of OCD, or a risk factor for it is unclear and should be studied in future work.

Additionally, Jaafari found high correlations between NSS and depression. Because this study did not control for depression or other psychological comorbidities, this outcome should prompt further work in this area. Jaafari added, “As a group, patients with OCD have elevated rates of subtle neurological signs, which rather than being specific to OCD, may represent markers of psychopathology in general.” Subsequent research into NSS and psychological impairment may provide clarification into this relationship.

Jaafari, N., et al. (2013). Neurological soft signs in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Two empirical studies and meta-analysis. Psychologica Medicine 43.5 (2013): 1069-79. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Arnold

    June 5th, 2013 at 9:33 PM

    possible that these nss are common for different disorders.because at a deeper level all these disorders are about deficits.but what specific kinds of nss and the level of each could hold the key to identifying the particular disorder to which a vulnerability exists.if they can figure this relationship out it could immensely help early identification.

  • Luke

    June 6th, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    but how easy is it to identify these markers? like with someone with no money and no insurance?

  • Moe S.

    June 6th, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I like this article. 1
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    this article I like. A
    this article I like. B.

  • Lauren

    June 10th, 2013 at 4:23 AM

    So what if the markers sre there
    what most families will want to know is whether this can be found in time to prevent
    or will this just be another one those things where it’s like yeah the signs were there but we didn’t have any way of knowing enough in advance to head it off
    just to treat when it finally shows up

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