Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Sahar Davarya, Carolyn Barry, Ph.D., Matthew Kirkhart, Ph.D.,

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The Investigation of Familial Executive Functioning as an Endophenotype for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disabling neuropsychiatric disorder (Murray & Lopez, 1996) that is believed to develop through a combination of genetic and environmental factors (e.g., Grados & Wilcox, 2007). Discovering the genes for OCD may lead to a more precise diagnostic classification (Menzies et al., 2007) and greater precision with treatment (Miguel et al., 2005). Given the difficulty in finding the genes to OCD, the concept of an endophenotype was adopted to narrow the pathway to identifying the genes (Gottesman & Gould, 2003). Researchers have hypothesized that specific deficits in executive functioning (EF) could be an endophenotype for OCD (e.g., Menzies et al., 2007; Viswanath, Reedy, Kumar, Kandavel, & Chandrashekar, 2009). However, there also have been scholars suggesting that these specific EF deficits are not impaired in individuals with OCD (e.g., Abbruzzese, Ferri, & Scarone, 1995; Beers et al., 1999).  Thus, this relation was investigated. Twenty-eight families, which included children or adolescents with a diagnosis of OCD and their adult relatives without a diagnosis of OCD, were investigated using an ecologically-valid measure of specific EF deficits to investigate specific EF deficits in these families. Since scholars have noted a relation between ADHD and specific EF deficits (e.g., Slaats-Willemse, Swaab-Barneveld, de Sonneville, & Buitelaar, 2007), specific EF deficits also were investigated in the same participants who had a diagnosis of ADHD. For this study, data that were collected as part of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric OCD genetic study conducted at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) was analyzed. Preliminary analyses indicated significant specific EF deficits in children and adolescents with OCD, but not in their adult relatives without OCD.  Additional analyses will be conducted and reported regarding specific EF deficits and the comorbid diagnosis of ADHD in the same children and adolescence with OCD and their adult relatives.