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Updated 6 August 2010 E-mail discussion
Printable version

Live Discussion: Language and Schizophrenia

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Debra Titone

“The study of language and schizophrenia has a long history dating back to the earliest reports of the disorder," writes Debra Titone of McGill University in her introduction to the current issue of the Journal of Neurolinguistics. The goal of that issue was to sample some of the recent developments in this field, and that was the focus of our live discussion, Thursday, 1 April 2010.

We invite you to read Titone's introductory article, provided courtesy of Elsevier Journals, and to provide commentary on this and the other articles in the issue, which can be accessed at the Journal of Neurolinguistics webpage.

Article reprinted from Titone D. Language, communication, & schizophrenia. J Neurolinguistics. 2010 May 1;23(3):173. (With permission from Elsevier.)

View Transcript of Live Discussion — Posted 6 August 2010

View Comments By:
Gina Kuperberg — Posted 31 March 2010
Stuart Steinhauer — Posted 1 April 2010
Timothy Crow — Posted 1 April 2010
Michael Kiang — Posted 2 April 2010
Ruth Condray — Posted 2 April 2010

Comments on Online Discussion
Comment by:  Gina Kuperberg
Submitted 30 March 2010 Posted 31 March 2010

Deb makes two very important points in her introductory article to the special issue. I'd like to highlight these for discussion.

Her first point is that "despite the long history of scholarly work on language and schizophrenia, mainstream psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic researchers are often unaware of this literature." This is so true. Many of my colleagues in psycholinguistics seem truly interested and excited when they hear how their work might be applicable to understanding language and communication disorders in schizophrenia, but tell me that they have been unaware of its relevance. I think that the reasons for this are largely historical. There is a rich tradition of studying language disturbances in patients with discrete brain lesions; indeed, many of the older neuropsychological models of language stemmed directly from the study of the aphasias. Also, as a neuropsychiatric disorder that presents in adults, schizophrenia contrasts with developmental communication disorders like dyslexia and autism, which both receive the attention of speech and language...  Read more

View all comments by Gina Kuperberg

Comment by:  Stuart Steinhauer
Submitted 1 April 2010 Posted 1 April 2010

One of the thematic aspects that recurs in considering language dysfunction involves critical aspects of neurodevelopmental considerations. Ruth Condray (2005) suggested that a number of developmental communalities were likely to contribute to both schizophrenia and dyslexia. However, the concept of shared linguistic substrates contributing to non-psychopathological disorders seems to have been resisted by the developmental linguistic community to date, although Pasko Rakic (e.g., Rakic, 2009) has suggested that aberrant cortical organization during development may underlie a number of conditions including schizophrenia, dyslexia, and autism. It is interesting that in the past few years, converging genetic contributions to these disorders have begun to be found.


Condray, R. Language disorder in schizophrenia as a developmental learning disorder. Schizophrenia Research, 73:5-20, 2005. Abstract

Rakic P. Evolution of the neocortex: a perspective from developmental biology. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Oct;10(10):724-35. Review. Abstract

View all comments by Stuart Steinhauer

Comment by:  Timothy Crow
Submitted 31 March 2010 Posted 1 April 2010

I outline the four-quadrant theory as follows:

1. The human brain differs from that of other primates by the addition of a "torque" from L frontal to R occipital as described by Gratiolet in 1840.

2. This renders the human brain four-chambered in terms of areas of association cortex by comparison with the two chambers (anterior and posterior) of the generalized primate brain.

3. This gives directionality to inter-hemispheric connections: R > L anterior, L > R posterior, to generate the "language circuit."

4. Within each quadrant there is a characteristic type of engram: L posterior—speech perception > R posterior—meaning > R anterior—thought > L anterior—speech production.

5. These can be understood as the bidirectional connections postulated by de Saussure of a signifier (word patterns—L) with its signifieds (meanings or thoughts—R), or the four compartments of language envisaged by Chomsky (articulatory- perceptual on the L and conceptual-intentional on the R).

6. Nuclear symptoms reflect the breakdown ("leakage")...  Read more

View all comments by Timothy Crow

Comment by:  Michael Kiang
Submitted 1 April 2010 Posted 2 April 2010

An important ongoing endeavor is to delineate the link between neurophysiological abnormalities on the one hand, and the clinical symptoms and functional impairment seen in schizophrenia (e.g., the social skills deficits examined by Mueser et al. in this issue). The report by Borofsky et al. contributes to this effort by reporting a link between decreased left inferior frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus activation and disorganized speech in childhood-onset schizophrenia.

This endeavor will potentially be assisted by more sensitive quantitative measures of language production disturbance (as demonstrated by Elvevag et al.), which draw on current methods from computational linguistics such as...  Read more

View all comments by Michael Kiang

Comment by:  Ruth Condray
Submitted 1 April 2010 Posted 2 April 2010

First, I would like to thank Deb Titone for organizing this interesting discussion. Second, I’d like to follow up on Gina Kuperberg’s encouragement not to limit our thinking about language dysfunction to the problems in working memory, executive dysfunction, and semantic memory that are clearly associated with schizophrenia. Her point is a good one, and I think it bears on an assumption that is driving much of our recent work: that cognition links with clinical symptomatology in straightforward ways. However, the data don’t always support our predictions regarding which aspect of language dysfunction will be correlated with which specific clinical symptoms, and in which direction. As an example, Michael Kiang notes in his   Read more

View all comments by Ruth Condray
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