Having only a left shoe in your cupboard is an indirect marker that you maybe an amputee.  On the face of it this makes a fair degree of common sense.  However it could also mean that you have an untrained puppy in the house that steals shoes.  This article will discuss an experiment by a New York based researcher Nicole McLaughlin.  In 2016 she studied a behaviour called cancellation.  Cancellation is the ability to stop a behaviour that has been started. If a child has a chocolate bar in his mouth and you say ‘stop’ they will likely prove to have poor cancellation abilities.

In McLaughlin’s experiment people with OCD took longer to cancel their behaviour than those people without OCD.  If you have OCD you probably perform some kind of ritual.  Once you have thought of the ritual you will find it difficult to cancel it.  McLaughlin’s experiment suggests that the brain acts differently with people with OCD and this may help to explain the difficulties in terminating rituals.  This makes reasonable sense.

McLaughlin did propose that this delay in cancelling an action could be used as a biomarker.  That is by testing for the longer delay you could predict if the person has OCD.  Biomarkers may be useful if they can predict a a probable emergence of OCD before the onset of symptoms.  Biomarkers may also allude to a fundamental underlying basis to the condition.  If this is true then it maybe a a relatively simple test that can be applied to children at an early age when early intervention might prove to be useful.  This is a good idea.

The downside of McLaughlin’s experiment is that almost every person who had OCD in the experiment was taking medication.  This brings us back to the possible ‘puppy in the room’ scenario.  Was it the medication that caused a delay in cancelling the behaviour or the was it due to the OCD?  The experiment cannot separate the two and so the question remains unanswered. McLaughlin’s biomarker idea is a great one but further research is required to understand the cause.





Stop Signal Reaction Time Deficits in a Lifetime Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Sample

Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (2016), 22, 785–789.

Copyright © INS. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2016.



This content is not intended to provide medical or mental health advice.  It is intended to stimulate an increased understanding of OCD.  The content may not be accurate or express the views of the journal article authors.