Cognitive retraining for organizational impairment in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Ulrike Buhlmann, Thilo Deckersbach, Iris Engelhard, Laura M. Cook, Scott L. Rauch, Norbert Kathmann, Sabine Wilhelm, Cary R. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have difficulties in organizing information during encoding associated with subsequent memory impairments. This study was designed to investigate whether impairments in organization in individuals with OCD can be alleviated with cognitive training. Thirty-five OCD subjects and 36 controls copied and recalled the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test (RCFT) [Osterrieth, P.A., 1944. Le test de copie d'une figure complexe: Contribution a l'étude de la perception et de la memoire (The test of copying a complex figure: A contribution to the study of perception and memory). Archive de Psychologie 30, 286-350.] before being randomly assigned to a training or non-training condition. The training condition was designed to improve the ability to organize complex visuospatial information in a meaningful way. The intervention phase was followed by another copy and recall trial of the RCFT. Both OCD and control subjects who underwent training improved more in organization and memory than subjects who did not receive organizational training, providing evidence that the training procedure was effective. OCD subjects improved more in organizational during encoding than control subjects, irrespective of whether or not they had received training. This suggests that organization impairment in OCD affects primarily the ability to spontaneously utilize strategies when faced with complex, ambiguous information but that the ability to implement such strategies when provided with additional trials is preserved. These findings support a distinction in OCD between failure to utilize a strategy and incapacity to implement a strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Nov 15 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Neuropsychology
  • Nonverbal memory
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Organization
  • Recall
  • Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure
  • Taylor Complex Figure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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