Abnormal neural hierarchy in processing of verbal information in patients with schizophrenia

Yulia Lerner, Maya Bleich-Cohen, Shimrit Solnik-Knirsh, Galit Yogev-Seligmann, Tamir Eisenstein, Waheed Madah, Alon Shamir, Talma Hendler, Ilana Kremer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research indicates abnormal comprehension of verbal information in patients with schizophrenia. Yet the neural mechanism underlying the breakdown of verbal information processing in schizophrenia is poorly understood. Imaging studies in healthy populations have shown a network of brain areas involved in hierarchical processing of verbal information over time. Here, we identified critical aspects of this hierarchy, examining patients with schizophrenia. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined various levels of information comprehension elicited by naturally presented verbal stimuli; from a set of randomly shuffled words to an intact story. Specifically, patients with first episode schizophrenia (N = 15), their non-manifesting siblings (N = 14) and healthy controls (N = 15) listened to a narrated story and randomly scrambled versions of it. To quantify the degree of dissimilarity between the groups, we adopted an inter-subject correlation (inter-SC) approach, which estimates differences in synchronization of neural responses within and between groups. The temporal topography found in healthy and siblings groups were consistent with our previous findings – high synchronization in responses from early sensory toward high order perceptual and cognitive areas. In patients with schizophrenia, stimuli with short and intermediate temporal scales evoked a typical pattern of reliable responses, whereas story condition (long temporal scale) revealed robust and widespread disruption of the inter-SCs. In addition, the more similar the neural activity of patients with schizophrenia was to the average response in the healthy group, the less severe the positive symptoms of the patients. Our findings suggest that system-level neural indication of abnormal verbal information processing in schizophrenia reflects disease manifestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1060
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors


  • Information processing
  • Narrated story
  • Schizophrenia
  • Siblings
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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