Neurocognitive mechanisms of conceptual processing in healthy adults and patients with schizophrenia


Sitnikova, T., Perrone, C., Goff, D., & Kuperberg, G. R. (2010). Neurocognitive mechanisms of conceptual processing in healthy adults and patients with schizophrenia. Int J Psychophysiol , 75 (2), 86-99.

Date Published:

2010 Feb


This overview outlines findings of cognitive and neurocognitive studies on comprehension of verbal, pictorial, and video stimuli in healthy participants and patients with schizophrenia. We present evidence for a distinction between two complementary neurocognitive streams of conceptual analysis during comprehension. In familiar situations, adequate understanding of events may be achieved by mapping the perceived information on the associative and similarity-based connections between concepts in semantic memory - a process reflected by an N400 waveform of event-related electrophysiological potentials (ERPs). However, in less conventional contexts, a more flexible mechanism may be needed. We suggest that this alternative processing stream, reflected by a P600 ERP waveform, may use discrete, rule-like goal-related requirements of real-world actions to comprehend relationships between perceived people, objects, and actions. This neurocognitive model of comprehension is used as a basis in discussing studies in schizophrenia. These studies suggest an imbalanced engagement of the two conceptual streams in schizophrenia, whereby patients may rely on the associative and similarity-based networks in semantic memory even when it would be more adaptive to recruit mechanisms that draw upon goal-related requirements. Finally, we consider the roles that these conceptual mechanisms may play in real-life behavior, and the consequences that their dysfunction may have for disorganized behavior and inability to plan actions to achieve behavioral goals in schizophrenia.

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Last updated on 02/20/2018