Affordances, response conflict, and enhanced-action tendencies in obsessive-compulsive disorder: An ERP study

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Abstract Background Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent, intrusive thoughts and/or behaviors. OCD symptoms are often triggered by external stimuli. Therefore, it has been suggested that difficulty inhibiting responses to stimuli associated with strong action tendencies may underlie symptoms. The present electrophysiological study examined whether stimuli evoking a strong automatic response are associated with enhanced action tendencies in OCD participants relative to healthy controls. Methods The lateralized readiness potential (LRP) and the N2 event-related potential (ERP) components were used as measures of action tendencies and inhibition, respectively. ERPs were recorded while 38 participants diagnosed with OCD and 38 healthy controls performed a variation of the Stroop task using colored arrows. Results The OCD group presented with larger LRP amplitudes than the control group. This effect was found specifically in the incongruent condition. Furthermore, an interaction effect was found between group and congruency such that the OCD group showed a reduced N2 in the incongruent condition compared to the congruent condition, whereas the control group demonstrated the opposite effect. Results support the hypothesis that OCD is characterized by stronger readiness-for-action and impaired inhibitory mechanisms, particularly when the suppression of a dominant response tendency is required. Our results were supported by source localization analyses for the LRP and N2 components. These findings were specific to OCD and not associated with anxiety and depression symptoms. Conclusions The present results support the notion of stronger habitual behavior and embodiment tendencies in OCD and impaired inhibitory control under conditions of conflict.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)948-963
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • ERP
  • N2
  • OCD
  • lateralized readiness potential

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology


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