Repository logo

Opening New Vistas on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with the Observing Response Task

Accepted version



Change log


Pickenhan, Luise 


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a highly prevalent and debilitating disorder, is incompletely understood in terms of underpinning behavioural, psychological, and neural mechanisms. This is attributable to high symptomatic heterogeneity, with cardinal features comprising obsessions and compulsions, including clinical sub-categories. While obsessive and intrusive thoughts are arguably unique to humans, dysfunctional behaviours analogous to those seen in clinical OCD have been examined in non-human animals. Genetic, ethological, pharmacological, and neurobehavioural approaches all contribute to understanding the emergence and persistence of compulsive behaviour. One behaviour of particular interest is maladaptive checking, whereby human patients excessively perform checking rituals despite these serving no purpose. Dysfunctional and excessive checking is the most common symptom associated with OCD and can be readily operationalised in rodents. This review considers animal models of OCD, the neural circuitries associated with impairments in habit-based and goal-directed behaviour, and how these may link to the compulsions observed in OCD. We further review the Observing Response Task (ORT), an appetitive instrumental learning procedure that distinguishes between functional and dysfunctional checking, with translational application in humans and rodents. By shedding light on the psychological and neural bases of compulsive-like checking, the ORT has potential to offer translational insights into the underlying mechanisms of OCD, in addition to being a platform for testing psychological and neurochemical treatment approaches.



Journal Title

Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


Psychonomic Society

Publisher DOI

Publisher URL

BBSRC (BB/W001195/1)