Conflicting findings regarding the ability of people with schizophrenia to maintain and update semantic contexts have been due, arguably, to vagaries within the experimental design employed (e.g. whether strongly or remotely associated prime-target pairs have been used, what delay between the prime and the target was employed, and what proportion of related prime-target pairs appeared) or to characteristics of the participant cohort (e.g. medication status, chronicity of illness). The aim of the present study was to examine how people with schizophrenia maintain and update contextual information over an extended temporal window by using multiple primes that were either remotely associated or unrelated to the target. Fourteen participants with schizophrenia and 12 healthy matched controls were compared across two stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) (short and long) and two relatedness proportions (RP) (high and low) in a crossed design. Analysis of variance statistics revealed significant two- and three-way interactions between Group and SOA, Group and Condition, SOA and RP, and Group, SOA and RP. The participants with schizophrenia showed evidence of enhanced remote priming at the short SOA and low RP, combined with a reduction in the time course over which context could be maintained. There was some sensitivity to biasing contextual information at the short SOA, although the mechanism over which context served to update information appeared to be different from that in the controls. The participants with schizophrenia showed marked performance decrements at the long SOA (both low and high RP). Indices of remote priming at the short (but not the long) SOA correlated with both clinical ratings of thought disorder and with increasing length of illness. The results support and extend the hypothesis that schizophrenia is associated with concurrent increases in tonic dopamine activity and decreases in phasic dopamine activity.
- Semantic priming