Individuals with schizophrenia are impaired in processing basic sound properties, such as pitch and intensity, and deficits in processing of fundamental frequency are associated with emotion recognition impairments. Our previous work indicates that individuals with schizophrenia have widespread deficits in basic auditory processing, and key among these are impairments to spectral processing in the phase-locking range of the auditory system. However, it is not yet known if basic auditory processing deficits are associated with the impaired emotional processing preceding the illness. The demand on auditory emotion perception becomes more critical as children enter adolescence and social interactions become more complex. We therefore hypothesize that adolescents? auditory perception of emotion is an early cognitive marker for schizophrenia onset. Before we can address this hypothesis it is essential to determine which auditory processing deficits are most impaired and which demonstrate a relationship to emotion processing in individuals at ultra high risk (UHR) for developing schizophrenia. The goals for this project are to determine the discrete auditory impairments underlying the auditory emotion processing deficits in UHR individuals. We hypothesize that UHR individuals will demonstrate widespread deficits in basic auditory skills and that tests that involve spectral discriminations within the phase-locking range of the auditory system will be among the most impaired skills and the most strongly associated with an inability to understand emotion from tone of voice. If successful, these results will enable the development of treatments that improve auditory emotion processing in adolescence and mitigate later progression to adult psychotic disorders.
Social, cognitive, and perceptual impairments are key risk factors for the development of psychotic disorders and have been found to be important determinants of functional outcome. This research will investigate the relationships of basic auditory perception, cognition, and auditory emotion identification in individuals at ultra high risk of developing a psychotic disorder. Quantitative measurements of this process will facilitate future research on auditory training methods that can improve the brain's ability to perceive auditory stimuli, process emotion, and improve social engagement, with the ultimate goal of preventing psychosis before it occurs.