Individuals with schizophrenia often have trouble recognizing emotions in others’ voices, according to a study recently published in Schizophrenia Research. This stems from basic auditory impairments, including deficient formant discrimination.

This study included 87 individuals with schizophrenia as well as 73 healthy controls. Both groups exhibited similar demographics. Those with schizophrenia demonstrated significant impairments in auditory function, with auditory emotion recognition showing a strong correlation with performance on auditory tests (P <.01). Emotional recognition was associated with 9 out of 13 tests at r≥0.40. Phase-locking spectral processing showed strong correlations, as did differentiation among vocal stimuli. Emotion recognition on 2 tests showed comparable impairment among all individuals with schizophrenia, with an effect size for total score of d=0.60 (medium). Similar impairments were found in functional capacity (d=0.47) and cognition (d=0.65).

Both patients and controls were given a comprehensive battery of exercises to complete to test auditory function. Researchers used correlational analysis to investigate the link between auditory recognition of emotion and basic auditory processing. To form a composite of emotion, they calculated Z-scores for the MAV and CATS Prosody outcome variables. The sum of these was used to calculate T-scores. Plots investigating the distribution of these deficiencies were generated using descriptive statistics.

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The study researchers conclude that “[patients] with schizophrenia exhibit widespread deficits in basic auditory impairments associated with difficulty identifying emotions from the acoustic properties of a speaker’s voice. …[Deficient] formant discrimination appears to be a key skill contributing to impaired emotion recognition as this was the only basic auditory skill to enter a step-wise multiple regression after first entering a measure of cognitive impairment…”


Kraus MS, Walker TM, Jarskog LF, Millet RA, Keefe RSE. Basic auditory processing deficits and their association with auditory emotion recognition in schizophrenia [published online September 26, 2018]. Schizophr Res. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2018.08.031