The effect of family status and schizotypy on electrophysiologic measures of attention and semantic processing

Matthew Kimble, Michael Lyons, Brian O'Donnell, Paul Nestor, Margaret Niznikiewicz, Rosemary Toomey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

67 Scopus citations


Background: Disturbances in both attention and language are central to the phenomenology of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relative contributions of two factors, family status and schizotypy, on electrophysiologic measures of attention and semantic processing in family members of individuals with schizophrenia. Methods: Fifteen first-degree relatives of individuals with schizophrenia and 15 comparison subject controls participated in diagnostic evaluations, an assessment of schizotypy, and two event-related potential (ERP) paradigms. The first paradigm was an auditory P300 'oddball' task designed to assess attentional functioning. The second was an N400 sentence paradigm particularly sensitive to language processing. Results: Both relatives and individuals higher in schizotypy, but not their respective comparison groups, showed reductions in P300 amplitude. In the N400 paradigm, individuals higher in schizotypy, but not relatives, showed a reduced N400 effect. There were no differences in latency for either group on either component. Conclusions: The results suggest that both family status and schizotypal presentation independently contribute to disturbances in electrophysiologic measures sensitive to attention and language. Whereas higher levels of schizotypy appear to be associated with disturbances in both attention and language processing, family membership appears to place individuals at risk for attentional deficits alone. Copyright (C) 2000 Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-412
Number of pages11
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2000



  • Attention
  • ERPs
  • N400
  • P300
  • Schizotypy
  • Semantic processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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