The long-term goal of this project is to understand the mechanisms by which the build-up of coherent thought and meaning breaks down in schizophrenia. Our experiments will test a cognitive neuroscience model which proposes that schizophrenia is characterized by an imbalance in activity between two distinct but interactive neural mechanisms of processing: (1) Associative-based mechanisms subserved within temporal and inferior frontal cortices, and operating maximally between 300-500ms, and (2) Integrative mechanisms, mediated by inferior parietal and dorsal prefrontal cortices, and operating between 500-800ms when there are requirements to override semantic associations to build whole meaning. We hypothesize that patients fail to effectively engage integrative processes, leading to an over-reliance on semantic associative-based processes. We further hypothesize that the symptom of thought disorder arises from superimposed bottom-up, purely automatic semantic associative hyperactivity between 300-400ms, within the temporal cortex. This tips the two mechanisms of processing into further imbalance leading to 'loosening of associations'. To test this model, complementary multimodal techniques will be used. Event-related potentials (ERPs) and Magneto-encephalography (MEG) will determine the time course of neurocognitive abnormalities in schizophrenia. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies will characterize the functional neuroanatomy of these mechanisms. Thirteen experiments are proposed (1 MEG, 7 ERP and 5 fMRI). All use carefully controlled psycholinguistic designs, based on theoretical models of normal semantic and language processing. Experiments under Aim 1 focus on semantic associations between individual words. They will isolate fully automatic semantic associative activity within the temporal cortex using a subliminal priming paradigm. In addition, they will, for the first time, elucidate the neural mechanisms by which automatic associative activity directly impacts language production in schizophrenia. Experiments under Aim 2 will determine whether semantic associations can fully override the build-up of whole sentence context in schizophrenia. Experiments under Aim 3 will, for the first time, determine whether an over-reliance on semantic associative neural activity can lead to failures of establishing causal and referential coherence across sentences in schizophrenia. Overall, this translational cognitive neuroscience approach taps into the neural mechanisms underlying psychotic thought in schizophrenia, and can explain how its symptoms and functional impairment arise from specific abnormalities in the modulation of underlying brain circuitry. Establishing such direct links between cognitive, clinical, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical dysfunction is essential for the targeted development of effective pharmacological and neurocognitive remediation strategies to treat this devastating disorder.

Public Health Relevance

Schizophrenia is a devastating neuropsychiatric disorder, affecting 1% of the adult population, that can lead to a breakdown in the build-up of coherent thought and communication. This project uses multimodal neuroimaging techniques to determine where, when and how such disorganized and illogical thinking arises in the brain. This is essential for targeting key neurocognitive systems for the development of new pharmacological and cognitive approaches for remediation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-D (05))
Program Officer
Rumsey, Judith M
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Massachusetts General Hospital
United States
Zip Code
Kuperberg, Gina R; Jaeger, T Florian (2016) What do we mean by prediction in language comprehension? Lang Cogn Neurosci 31:32-59
Lau, Ellen F; Weber, Kirsten; Gramfort, Alexandre et al. (2016) Spatiotemporal Signatures of Lexical-Semantic Prediction. Cereb Cortex 26:1377-87
Weber, Kirsten; Lau, Ellen F; Stillerman, Benjamin et al. (2016) The Yin and the Yang of Prediction: An fMRI Study of Semantic Predictive Processing. PLoS One 11:e0148637
Delaney-Busch, Nathaniel; Wilkie, Gianna; Kuperberg, Gina (2016) Vivid: How valence and arousal influence word processing under different task demands. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 16:415-32
Cohn, Neil; Maher, Stephen (2015) The notion of the motion: the neurocognition of motion lines in visual narratives. Brain Res 1601:73-84
Cohn, Neil; Wittenberg, Eva (2015) Action starring narratives and events: Structure and inference in visual narrative comprehension. J Cogn Psychol (Hove) 27:812-828
Xiang, Ming; Kuperberg, Gina (2015) Reversing expectations during discourse comprehension. Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:648-672
Fields, Eric C; Kuperberg, Gina R (2015) Dynamic Effects of Self-Relevance and Task on the Neural Processing of Emotional Words in Context. Front Psychol 6:2003
Brown, Meredith; Kuperberg, Gina R (2015) A Hierarchical Generative Framework of Language Processing: Linking Language Perception, Interpretation, and Production Abnormalities in Schizophrenia. Front Hum Neurosci 9:643
Fields, Eric C; Kuperberg, Gina R (2015) Loving yourself more than your neighbor: ERPs reveal online effects of a self-positivity bias. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 10:1202-9

Showing the most recent 10 out of 56 publications