Latent semantic variables are associated with formal thought disorder and adaptive behavior in older inpatients with schizophrenia
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INTRODUCTION: Formal thought disorder is a hallmark feature of schizophrenia in which disorganized thoughts manifest as disordered speech. A dysfunctional semantic system and a disruption in executive functioning have been proposed as possible mechanisms for formal thought disorder and verbal fluency impairment. Traditional rating scales and neuropsychological test scores might not be sensitive enough to distinguish among types of semantic impairments. This has lead to the proposed used of a natural language processing technique, Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), which offers improved semantic sensitivity. METHOD: In this study, LSA, a computational, vector-based text analysis technique to examine the contribution of vector length, an LSA measure related to word unusualness and cosines between word vectors, an LSA measure of semantic coherence to semantic and phonological fluency, disconnectedness of speech, and adaptive functioning in 165 older inpatients with schizophrenia. RESULTS: In stepwise regressions word unusualness was significantly associated with semantic fluency and phonological fluency, disconnectedness in speech, and impaired functioning, even after considering the contribution of premorbid cognition, positive and negative symptoms, and demographic variables. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the utility of LSA in examining the contribution of coherence to thought disorder and the its relationship with daily functioning. Deficits in verbal fluency may be an expression of underlying disorganization in thought processes.
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