npj Schizophrenia

The maturation of speech structure in psychosis is resistant to formal education

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Discourse varies widely with age, level of education, and psychiatric state. Word graphs have been recently shown to provide behavioral markers of formal thought disorders in psychosis (e.g., disorganized flow of ideas) and to track literacy acquisition in children with typical development. Here we report that a graph-theoretical computational analysis of verbal reports from subjects spanning 6 decades of age and 2 decades of education reveals asymptotic changes over time that depend more on education than age. In typical subjects, short-range recurrence and lexical diversity stabilize after elementary school, whereas graph size and long-range recurrence only steady after high school. Short-range recurrence decreases towards random levels, while lexical diversity, long-range recurrence, and graph size increase away from near-randomness towards a plateau in educated adults. Subjects with psychosis do not show similar dynamics, presenting at adulthood a children-like discourse structure. Typical subjects increase the range of word recurrence over school years, but the same feature in subjects with psychosis resists education.


07 Dec 2018


npj Schizophrenia