Psychological Medicine


Research Article

Heterogeneity in cognitive functioning of schizophrenic patients evaluated by a lexical decision task


C. PASSERIEUX a1 , J. SEGUI a1 , C. BESCHE a1 , J. F. CHEVALIER a1 , D. WIDLÖCHER a1 and M. C. HARDY-BAYLÉ a1
a1 INSERM Unité de Recherche U302, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpétrière, Laboratoire de Psychologie Expérimentale, Université René Descartes et CNRS, Paris; Université Paris 8, Equipe de Recherche sur la Pratique Clinique, Saint Denis; and Service de psychiatrie, Hôpital Richaud, Versailles, France

Abstract

Background. The disorganization pattern in schizophrenia, which involves formal thought disorders, is thought to be correlated with a deficit in integrative processes of contextual information. We tested the hypothesis that thought disordered schizophrenics, unlike non-thought disordered schizophrenics, would present a deficit in the processing of the context during a task which involves these integrative processes.

Methods. A group of 22 schizophrenic patients diagnosed in accordance with DSM-III-R criteria and a group of 11 control subjects were compared using a semantic priming version of the lexical decision task. The experimental design used low-level structuration of verbal material to reveal the difficulty that schizophrenic patients encounter in using semantic regularities.

Results. A significant difference in priming effect was found between the three groups. Control subjects and non-thought disordered schizophrenics exhibit a priming effect for related word pairs when compared with unrelated pairs (respectively F(1,10)=17·7; P<0·002 and F(1,10)=14·5; P>0·003) but thought disordered schizophrenics did not (F(1,10)<1; NS).

Conclusions. This finding provides evidence for the cognitive heterogeneity of schizophrenic subjects. This absence of priming effect in thought-disordered schizophrenic subjects supports the hypothesis that these patients present a deficit in the post-lexical controlled information processing that permits the integration of semantic information.


Correspondence:

Address for correspondence: Dr Christine Passerieux, Service de psychiatrie, Hôpital Richaud, 1, rue Richaud, 78011 Versailles Cédex, France.



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