Neurocognitive assessment in obsessive compulsive disorder patients: Adherence to behavioral decision models

Alessandra Cillo, Marco Bonetti, Giovanni Burro, Clelia Di Serio, Roberta De Filippis, Riccardo Maria Martoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In economics, models of decision-making under risk are widely investigated. Since many empirical studies have shown patterns in choice behavior that classical models fail to predict, several descriptive theories have been developed. Due to an evident phenotypic heterogeneity, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) patients have shown a general deficit in decision making when compared to healthy control subjects (HCs). However, the direction for impairment in decision-making in OCD patients is still unclear. Hence, bridging decision-making models widely used in the economic literature with mental health research may improve the understanding of preference relations in severe patients, and may enhance intervention designs. We investigate the behavior of OCD patients with respect to HCs by means of decision making economic models within a typical neuropsychological setting, such as the Cambridge Gambling Task. In this task subjects have to decide the amount of their initial wealth to invest in each risky decision. To account for heterogenous preferences, we have analyzed the micro-level data for a more informative analysis of the choices made by the subjects. We consider two influential models in economics: the expected value (EV), which assumes risk neutrality, and a multiple reference points model, an alternative formulation of Disappointment theory. We find evidence that (medicated) OCD patients are more consistent with EV than HCs. The former appear to be more risk neutral, namely, less sensitive to risk than HCs. They also seem to base their decisions on disappointment avoidance less than HCs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211856
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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