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Characterizing a psychiatric symptom dimension related to deficits in goal-directed control.

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Kosinski, Michal 
Whelan, Robert 
Phelps, Elizabeth A 
Daw, Nathaniel D 


Prominent theories suggest that compulsive behaviors, characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction, are driven by shared deficits in goal-directed control, which confers vulnerability for developing rigid habits. However, recent studies have shown that deficient goal-directed control accompanies several disorders, including those without an obvious compulsive element. Reasoning that this lack of clinical specificity might reflect broader issues with psychiatric diagnostic categories, we investigated whether a dimensional approach would better delineate the clinical manifestations of goal-directed deficits. Using large-scale online assessment of psychiatric symptoms and neurocognitive performance in two independent general-population samples, we found that deficits in goal-directed control were most strongly associated with a symptom dimension comprising compulsive behavior and intrusive thought. This association was highly specific when compared to other non-compulsive aspects of psychopathology. These data showcase a powerful new methodology and highlight the potential of a dimensional, biologically-grounded approach to psychiatry research.



compulsive, computational, dimensional, goal-directed, habit, human, human biology, medicine, neuroscience, psychiatry, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Female, Goals, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Substance-Related Disorders, Young Adult

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eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
Wellcome Trust (101521/Z/13/Z)
Funded by a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship (101521/Z/12/Z) awarded to CM Gillan. Claire M Gillan: Wellcome Trust 101521/Z/12/Z Nathaniel D Daw: National Institute on Drug Abuse 1R01DA038891 Nathaniel D Daw: James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award