Affective systems induce formal thought disorder in early-stage psychosis

Kyle S. Minor, Matthew P. Marggraf, Beshaun J. Davis, Nicole F. Mehdiyoun, Alan Breier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Although formal thought disorder (FTD) has been described since early conceptualizations of psychosis, its underlying mechanisms are unclear. Evidence suggests FTD may be influenced by affective and cognitive systems; however, few have examined these relationships-with none focusing on early-stage psychosis (EP). In this study, positive FTD and speech production were measured in sex- and racematched EP (n = 19) and healthy control (n = 19) groups by assessing "reactivity"-a change in experimental compared with baseline conditions-across baseline, affective, and cognitive conditions. Relationships with functioning were also examined within each group. Three key findings emerged: (a) the EP group displayed large differences in positive FTD and speech production, (b) those with EP exhibited affective reactivity for positive FTD, and (c) positive FTD and affective reactivity were linked with poor real-world functioning in EP and these relationships did not considerably change when controlling for positive symptom (e.g., delusions, hallucinations) severity. Our findings provide preliminary evidence that affective, but not cognitive, systems play a critical role in positive FTD. Affective reactivity, in particular, may aid in predicting those with EP who go on to develop serious social impairments. Future work should focus on whether affective systems differentially influence those at separate points on the psychosis-spectrum in an effort to establish evidence-based treatments for FTD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-542
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Cognitive load
  • Early psychosis
  • Formal thought disorder
  • Functioning
  • Negative affect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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