Background. Schizophrenia has been defined in part by
disturbances of thought and language. The
non-schizophrenic relatives of patients also have been found to show subtle
language that may be associated with vulnerability. Investigators have
hypothesized that these
phenomena in patients and their relatives are, at least in part, the result
of weaknesses in facets of
attention and memory.
Methods. The present study assessed some neuropsychological
process correlates of three different
measures of thought and language symptoms in 55 stable out-patients, using
tests of immediate
auditory memory impairment and auditory distractability, and carefully
controlling for generalized
deficit effects. A parallel assessment was made of referential communication
disturbances in 59 non-schizophrenic relatives of patients and 24 control
subjects matched to the relatives.
Results. In patients, formal thought disorder, disorganization,
and referential communication
disturbances were all associated with each other and with auditory distractability.
In addition, as
expected, referential communication disturbances were associated with immediate
impairment. Referential disturbance ratings for relatives were similar
in magnitude to those for the
stable out-patients, and much higher than for controls. However, the relatives'
were not associated specifically with weaknesses in attention or memory
Conclusions. Impairments in immediate auditory memory and attention
are associated differentially
with different types of communication disturbances in schizophrenia patients.
substrate for referential communication disturbances in relatives appears
to differ qualitatively from
that for patients.