Not pitch perfect: Sensory contributions to affective communication impairment in schizophrenia

David I. Leitman, Daniel H. Wolf, Petri Laukka, John D Ragland, Jeffrey N. Valdez, Bruce I. Turetsky, Raquel E. Gur, Ruben C. Gur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Schizophrenia patients have vocal affect (prosody) deficits that are treatment resistant and associated with negative symptoms and poor outcome. The neural correlates of this dysfunction are unclear. Prior study has suggested that schizophrenia vocal affect perception deficits stem from an inability to use acoustic cues, notably pitch, in decoding emotion. Methods: Functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 24 schizophrenia patients and 28 healthy control subjects, during the performance of a four-choice (happiness, fear, anger, neutral) vocal affect identification task in which items for each emotion varied parametrically in affective salient acoustic cue levels. Results: We observed that parametric increases in cue levels in schizophrenia failed to produce the same identification rate increases as in control subjects. These deficits correlated with diminished reciprocal activation changes in superior temporal and inferior frontal gyri and reduced temporo-frontal connectivity. Task activation also correlated with independent measures of pitch perception and negative symptom severity. Conclusions: These findings illustrate the interplay between sensory and higher-order cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. Sensory contributions to vocal affect deficits also suggest that this neurobehavioral marker could be targeted by pharmacological or behavioral remediation of acoustic feature discrimination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-618
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


  • Emotion
  • fMRI
  • inferior frontal gyrus
  • schizophrenia
  • speech
  • temporal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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