Greater neuronal responses during automatic semantic processing in schizophrenia

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Abstract

A core feature of schizophrenia is a disturbance of associative processes. To date, no functional MRI studies have investigated semantic priming in schizophrenia under experimental conditions that measure automatic, as opposed to strategic, processing. The present study’s focus was to investigate hemodynamic responses during indirect semantic priming at a short stimulus onset asynchrony (i.e. 350 ms), conditions which are considered to be a particularly sensitive measure of automatic spreading activation during semantic processing and of the associative disturbances in schizophrenia. Seventeen individuals with DSM-IV, schizophrenia and 15 comparison participants underwent functional scanning while performing a lexical decision task on directly related, indirectly related, unrelated, and word/nonword pairs. A random-effects region of interest analysis within a priori temporal and frontal regions was performed. Whereas comparison individuals exhibited hemodynamic suppression in response to priming, individuals with schizophrenia exhibited hemodynamic enhancement. Relative to the comparison group, these enhancements were observed in the left fusiform and superior temporal gyri for indirectly related word pairs relative to unrelated pairs. Greater priming-related responses within temporal regions may reflect increased and prolonged automatic spreading activation during semantic processing in schizophrenia.

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