Cognitive Load and Attentional Control in Puerto Ricans with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Carga cognitiva y control atencional en puertorriqueños con trastorno obsesivocompulsivo

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Stephanie Santiago-Mejias
Karen G. Martinez
Frances Centeno
Carlos Sellas


Background: The executive control of attention involves problem solving and voluntary action and has been implicated in emotion regulation. Some researchers have reported that attentional control is impaired in individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, influence of cognitive load and distraction on task performance has not been considered, which may have an impact on the control of attention. In this study, we evaluated if low and high cognitive load influences attentional control in individuals with OCD, compared to healthy controls.Methods: A total of 41 Puerto Rican adults participated in the study, 15 with OCD (M=31.60, SD=10.70) and 26 healthy controls (M=28.42, SD=10.73). A psychological evaluation was completed using structured interviews and self-reports. The Attention Network Test and a cognitive load task were performed to assess attentional control. Results: No significant differences in alerting, orienting, and attentional control scores were observed between groups on both cognitive load conditions (p>0.05). A significant difference was only observed in the attentional control of OCD (z= -1.99, p=0.047) and healthy participants (z= -2.83, p=0.005) between low and high cognitive load. Conclusions: OCD and healthy participants experienced decreased interference from distractors under high cognitive load, suggesting increased attentional control during this condition. It is possible that increasing cognitive load can reduce distraction in OCD and healthy Puerto Ricans. Considering load may facilitate cognitive training for the control of attention and increase cognitive flexibility, enhancing treatment response.

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