Schizotypy and smooth pursuit eye movements as potential endophenotypes of obsessive-compulsive disorder

  • Katharina BeyEmail author
  • Inga Meyhöfer
  • Leonhard Lennertz
  • Rosa Grützmann
  • Stephan Heinzel
  • Christian Kaufmann
  • Julia Klawohn
  • Anja Riesel
  • Ulrich Ettinger
  • Norbert Kathmann
  • Michael Wagner
Original Paper


Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) show dysfunctions of the fronto-striatal circuitry, which imply corresponding oculomotor deficits including smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM). However, evidence for a deficit in SPEM is inconclusive, with some studies reporting reduced velocity gain while others did not find any SPEM dysfunctions in OCD patients. Interestingly, psychosis-like traits have repeatedly been linked to both OCD and impaired SPEM. Here, we examined a large sample of n = 168 patients with OCD, n = 93 unaffected first-degree relatives and n = 171 healthy control subjects to investigate whether elevated levels of schizotypy and SPEM deficits represent potential endophenotypes of OCD. We applied a SPEM task with high demands on predictive pursuit that is more sensitive to assess executive dysfunctions than a standard task with continuous visual feedback, as episodes of target blanking put increased demands on basal ganglia and prefrontal involvement. Additionally, we examined the relation between schizotypy and SPEM performance in OCD patients and their relatives. Results indicate that OCD patients and unaffected relatives do not show deficient performance in either standard or predictive SPEM. Yet, both patients and relatives exhibited elevated levels of schizotypy, and schizotypy was significantly correlated with velocity gain during standard trials in unmedicated and depression-free OCD patients. These findings highlight the role of schizotypy as a candidate endophenotype of OCD and add to the growing evidence for predisposing personality traits in OCD. Furthermore, intact gain may represent a key characteristic that distinguishes the OCD and schizophrenia patient populations.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD Smooth pursuit eye movements SPEM Schizotypy Endophenotype 



The present study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; KA815/6-1 and WA731/10-1). We sincerely thank all research assistants and subjects who participated in the study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharina Bey
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Inga Meyhöfer
    • 3
    • 8
  • Leonhard Lennertz
    • 1
  • Rosa Grützmann
    • 4
  • Stephan Heinzel
    • 4
    • 5
  • Christian Kaufmann
    • 4
  • Julia Klawohn
    • 4
    • 6
  • Anja Riesel
    • 4
  • Ulrich Ettinger
    • 3
  • Norbert Kathmann
    • 4
  • Michael Wagner
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)BonnGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  6. 6.Biomedical Sciences and PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  7. 7.Department for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Geriatric PsychiatryUniversity Hospital BonnBonnGermany
  8. 8.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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