A cognitive comparison of pathological skin picking and trichotillomania

Jon E. Grant, Brian L. Odlaug, Samuel R. Chamberlain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Objective: Pathological Skin Picking (PSP) and Trichotillomania (TTM) share overlapping comorbidity and phenomenology. The extent to which these disorders share a common cognitive phenotype, however, has yet to be examined. This study sought to compare inhibitory control processes in individuals with PSP or TTM. Methods: Thirty-one subjects with PSP (mean age 31.2 ± 12.5 years; 93.5% female), 39 subjects with TTM (mean age 35.9 ± 10.7 years; 87.2% female), and 33 matched controls (mean age 31.9 ± 9.9 years; 72.7% female) undertook cognitive assessments using the Stop-Signal Task (assessing response impulsivity) and the Intra-dimensional/Extra-dimensional (ID/ED) Set Shift task (assessing cognitive flexibility). Groups were matched for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education. Results: PSP was associated with significantly impaired stop-signal reaction times but intact ID/ED cognitive flexibility compared to controls. TTM occupied an intermediate position in terms of stop-signal reaction times between controls and PSP but did not differ significantly from either group on the ID/ED Set Shift Task. Conclusion: These results replicate the finding of impaired inhibitory control in PSP but suggest TTM may be heterogeneous with respect to such impairment. Future work should explore possible subgroups in TTM and whether cognitive variables are predictive of treatment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1634-1638
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded in part by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1RC1DA028279-01). These organizations had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Funding Information:
Dr. Grant has received research grants from NIMH, NIDA, National Center for Responsible Gaming and its affiliated Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders, and Psyadon Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Grant receives yearly compensation from Springer Publishing for acting as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gambling Studies. Dr. Grant has received royalties from Oxford University Press, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., Norton Press, and McGraw Hill. Dr. Chamberlain has consulted for Cambridge Cognition, P1Vital, and Shire Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Odlaug has received honoraria from Oxford University Press and Current Medicine Group, LLC.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cognition
  • Inhibition
  • Skin picking
  • Trichotillomania


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