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Cognitive Substrates in Semantic Memory of Formal Thought Disorder in Schizophrenia

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Soriano, M. F., Jimenez, J. F., Román, P. E., & Bajo, M. T. (2008). Cognitive Substrates in Semantic Memory of Formal Thought Disorder in Schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 30(1), 70-82. doi:10.1080/13803390701220011.

Formal thought disorder (FTD) has been associated with abnormalities in the semantic memory system. However, it is still unclear whether these abnormalities are related to the organization of the semantic system, or to the automatic spread of activation-inhibition in semantic networks. In this paper these alternative proposals are examined. Schizophrenic patients and healthy matched controls were given two semantic memory tasks. In the first task, participants were required to judge the similarity between pairs of natural concepts. These ratings are assumed to reflect the underlying knowledge organization. In the second task, participants were required to name pictures that were preceded by related or unrelated word primes. Interference is typically observed when pictures are preceded by semantically related primes, and it is explained as due to inhibitory processes from the word prime to the related picture target. The results showed that the semantic structures derived from the similarity ratings were similar for patients with and without FTD and for control participants. However, results from the picture-naming task indicated that both non-FTD and control participants showed the normal interference/inhibition effects from the related prime words, whereas the patients with FTD showed similar performance for pictures preceded by related words than for pictures preceded by unrelated words. These findings support the hypothesis that abnormalities in inhibitory processes in semantic memory underlie FTD.