Processing of environmental sounds in schizophrenic patients: Disordered recognition and lack of semantic specificity

O. Tüscher, D. Silbersweig, H. Pan, T. Smith, M. Beutel, J. Zonana, V. Erbesh, D. Weisholtz, E. Stern, A. Engelien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The recognition of environmental sounds is an important feature of higher auditory processing and essential for everyday life. The present study aimed to investigate the potential impairment of this mental function in schizophrenia. This work on immediate sound recognition is complementary to recent studies on auditory linguistic processing. Fifteen schizophrenic patients and 30 control subjects were asked to identify 43 complex environmental sounds from different categories and rate their familiarity when naïve to the sounds. In consecutive experiments, patients and control subjects rated the sounds according to emotional valence and arousal, as well as imageability. In both groups, correct identification of non-verbal sounds was highly associated with familiarity. Statistical analysis by group demonstrated a significantly higher error rate in identifying sounds in patients suffering from schizophrenia compared to healthy control subjects. In contrast, the affective recognition of the complex sounds was preserved in the schizophrenic patients. These results suggest a disturbance of higher-order, auditory mnemonic processing in schizophrenic patients in the non-linguistic domain. We discuss their abnormal responses in the context of recent theories of auditory physiological and semantic processing deficits in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-295
Number of pages5
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory
  • Recognition
  • Schizophrenia
  • Semantic
  • Sounds
  • Valence


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