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Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry

versão impressa ISSN 1516-4446versão On-line ISSN 1809-452X


BERBERIAN, Arthur A. et al. Is semantic verbal fluency impairment explained by executive function deficits in schizophrenia?. Rev. Bras. Psiquiatr. [online]. 2016, vol.38, n.2, pp.121-126.  Epub 19-Abr-2016. ISSN 1809-452X.


To investigate if verbal fluency impairment in schizophrenia reflects executive function deficits or results from degraded semantic store or inefficient search and retrieval strategies.


Two groups were compared: 141 individuals with schizophrenia and 119 healthy age and education-matched controls. Both groups performed semantic and phonetic verbal fluency tasks. Performance was evaluated using three scores, based on 1) number of words generated; 2) number of clustered/related words; and 3) switching score. A fourth performance score based on the number of clusters was also measured.


SZ individuals produced fewer words than controls. After controlling for the total number of words produced, a difference was observed between the groups in the number of cluster-related words generated in the semantic task. In both groups, the number of words generated in the semantic task was higher than that generated in the phonemic task, although a significant group vs. fluency type interaction showed that subjects with schizophrenia had disproportionate semantic fluency impairment. Working memory was positively associated with increased production of words within clusters and inversely correlated with switching.


Semantic fluency impairment may be attributed to an inability (resulting from reduced cognitive control) to distinguish target signal from competing noise and to maintain cues for production of memory probes.

Palavras-chave : Psychosis; schizophrenia; cognitive neuroscience; chronic psychiatric illness; language.

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