A critical review of the contribution of eye movement recordings to the neuropsychology of obsessive compulsive disorder

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Dysfunctions of saccadic and/or smooth pursuit eye movements have been proposed as markers of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but experimental results are inconsistent. The aim of this paper was to review the literature on eye movement dysfunctions in OCD to assess whether or not saccades or smooth pursuit may be used to diagnose and characterize OCD.


Literature was searched using PubMed, ISI Web of Knowledge, and PsycINFO databases for all studies reporting eye movements in adult patients suffering from OCD.


Thirty-three articles were found. As expected, eye movements of the patients with OCD were mostly assessed with simple oculomotor paradigms involving saccadic and/or smooth pursuit control. In contrast to patients with schizophrenia, however, patients with OCD only displayed rather unspecific deficits, namely slight smooth pursuit impairments and longer response latencies on antisaccade tasks. There was no relationship between these deficits and the severity of patients’ symptoms. Interestingly, eye movements of the patients with OCD were almost never recorded during more complex cognitive tasks.


As in schizophrenia and autism, eye movement recordings during more complex tasks might help to better characterize the cognitive deficits associated with OCD. Such recordings may reveal specific OCD-related deficits that could be used as reliable diagnostic and/or classification tools.

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