Can Zoloft Help Improve Neuropsychological Functioning in People With OCD?

The researchers conducted a trial that included 50 treatment-naive participants with OCD between the ages of 18 and 55 who received either Fluvoxamine or Sertraline.

Fluvoxamine and Sertraline both improve neuropsychological functioning in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) according to the results of a randomized open-label pilot trial. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Problems with visual memory, as well as deficits in executive function, verbal fluency and verbal memory, response inhibition, set-shifting, planning, working memory and processing speed are reported in people with OCD. Previous studies have shown mixed results on whether Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) impact neuropsychological functioning.

To add to the data, the researchers conducted a trial that included 50 treatment-naive participants with OCD between the ages of 18 and 55. Participants received either Fluvoxamine or Sertraline, starting with 50 mg per day and escalating to a maximum tolerable therapeutic dose by the end of 6 weeks. They received neuropsychological assessments at baseline and at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 weeks.

The participants showed statistically significant improvement in sustained attention, verbal fluency, category fluency, verbal working memory, and visual working memory, among other symptoms, at 12 weeks compared with the baseline. Patients who performed lower on the tests had higher OCD-related symptoms than those who performed higher on the tests. There was no significant difference between the 2 SSRI groups, indicating both drugs performed equally well.

The study was limited, however, by a small sample size, the lack of a control group, and multiple analyses, which increased risk of error. The researchers also suggested the possibility of a placebo effect. “Long term studies employing rigorous study designs are needed for better understanding of effect of SSRI treatment on various domains of OCD,” they concluded.


Brar J, Sidana A, Chauhan N, Bajaj MK. A randomized, open-label pilot trial of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on neuropsychological functions in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder. Published online May 17, 2022. J Psychiatr Res. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2022.05.002