The event-related potentials elicited by content and function words during the reading of sentences by patients with schizophrenia

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Thought disorder is one of the main symptoms observed in schizophrenia and has been investigated in terms of language dysfunction. The purpose of the present study was to find whether there were any differences in identifying and processing between content (semantic) and function (syntax) words, and to elucidate whether semantic or syntax is more impaired for the schizophrenics. Event-related potentials were recorded in 13 patients with schizophrenia and 14 healthy controls, while they silently read three sets of passages. Event-related potentials were recorded for content words (noun, verb) and function words (auxiliary verb, particle) separately. For the healthy control group, the mean amplitude of P200 for the content word class was greater than for the function word class with fronto-central dominancy. In contrast, no such difference was found for the schizophrenics mainly due to the reduction of P200 amplitude of the content words. Larger P200 for the content than the function word class suggests that greater resources were used to identify the content words. Lack of this difference found in patients with schizophrenia suggested that the disturbances in the semantics may be more attributable to the linguistic impairment than those in the syntax.

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