Defining Reading Deficits Could Lead to Early Interventions for Schizophrenia

Visual and auditory impairments are common traits of schizophrenia. Individuals with schizophrenia often experience language problems that can lead to hallucinations and distorted thinking. Another common issue that people with schizophrenia face is the inability to accurately process written words. The way in which people process words and comprehend written material is essential to overall quality of life. People with literacy challenges have more problems communicating with others and are less able to maintain daily activities and keep gainful employment. Because both visual and language skills are necessary to maintaining a stable quality of life, it is imperative to understand how deficits in these areas interact in individuals at risk for schizophrenia.

To explore the relationship between visual and speech processing, Veronica Whitford of the Department of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal conducted a study on 36 individuals, 20 of whom had a history of schizophrenia. Using several tests, Whitford assessed the participants’ eye movements, executive processing functions and comprehension. She found that the participants with schizophrenia had higher levels of eye movement than the controls, which led to more reading challenges and slower reading. These individuals exhibited difficulties in comprehension and had problems converting the written words into phonetically correct speech.

Whitford discovered that the participants with schizophrenia had impairments in key reading functions that were above and beyond those found in the participants without schizophrenia. She also noticed that these deficits were similar to those in individuals with dyslexia. She believes that further exploration of neurological development in people with dyslexia and people with schizophrenia could provide additional insight into links and possible interventions. Whitford added, “If true, reading measures, in combination with other information such as family history, might be used to better identify people in the early stages of the illness and thus allow for better targeting of early interventions.” Whitford noted that regardless of mental health, every individual should be afforded the opportunity to enhance their reading and comprehension skills in order to improve their quality of life. The findings of this study may very well be the first step on the path toward that end for people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Whitford, V., O’Driscoll, G. A., Pack, C. C., Joober, R., Malla, A., Titone, D. (2012). Reading impairments in schizophrenia relate to individual differences in phonological processing and oculomotor control: Evidence from a gaze-contingent moving window paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028062

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  • Victor

    May 2nd, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    This is pretty amazing stuff right here! Who knew that having challenges with reading and other language processing could be a conclusive indicator of future onset of schizophrenia? The more that we get reading and possibly speech therapists involved with school age children, then we have a great opportunity to catch this early, and if not stop it, at least provide some early intervention that may slow the progression of the disease as well as teach families and students both more about what could happen later on and some better ways to deal with it. Great job/.

  • Shell

    May 2nd, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    What parents from generations ago would have given to know this kind of information when it came to their own children!
    I am sure that these families had a tremendously difficult time as their children got oldre and began experiencing so many of these problems together.
    Just knowing half of what we know today could have greatly improved the quality of life for so many people.
    But I suppose we can’t bemaon the knowledge of the past, we just have to be grateful for that that we know now and for how much more we will gain in the future.

  • Nona

    May 3rd, 2012 at 4:16 AM

    I would have never thought that these few things would almost start to fit together to tell a story like puzzle pieces.

    It might not be the complete story, but it is a part that has not been explored before, and that kind of new research always shows promise for giving people answers that they have lacked before.

  • Aiden

    May 3rd, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Knowing that there is information like this available is one thing, but knowing the right person at the right time to help you diagnose this very early on is bound to be tricky. How is a parent supposed to know when those reading cues are off when he or she has never had any training in this area? And most teachers are so overwhelmed with large class sizes and keeping the lid on some behavior that it is going to be tough for them to tell early on that something might be a little off too. I am glad that this information is coming out, and maybe there will be far more training in the future to help those who are aorund kids have a better feel for these kinds of things, but for now I am not sure just how many plain old folks like me would even be able to distinguish that there was a problem and seek help from someone who would understand it better.

  • Matt

    May 4th, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    So doesn’t this approach not give a conclusive result?Because the traits are similar to dyslexia do how would they ascertain whether it is a risk for dyslexia or schizophrenia?

  • Vickie

    May 5th, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    I know that knowing all of this is going to be so important for some parents. . . but for the owrrywarts,do you think that it could cause them to always be on the lookout for something? Like you know how there are certain people who always are looking for something to go wrong and be wrong, this could fan the flames for them. But of course if they found out something early enough them of course that would be a good thing, but I just know that there are some parents always looking and watching for some thing to go wrong and to be wrong.

  • Tina

    October 20th, 2018 at 3:18 PM

    I knew from very young even in the cot my 4 sons all showed signs of some slow developments and also some extremely high results captured by a clinical psychologist the last two sons seemed different not showing any above normal
    The last son who developed ….
    Was very quiet in my womb I had a very extreme injury while pregnant in the very early stage I think that had an effect
    Then the birth was very traumatic he weighed 10.7 lbs beautiful looking baby
    I was very traumatized and also having 3 other sons eldest ten, 8, 2, the baby went straight into intensive care
    The midwife was disgusted with the obstetrician saying he’d bias them against me knowing my history etc. when he arrived stank of alcohol 1989
    My son from 4 realized that he was the only one who could not read and he was very articulate in this. I took him that early to edu psychologist she said bring him back after 6 I did when I collected him he was very upset about the testing it took way longer than he was able
    The psychologist was wrong to do that
    She was also wrong to not meet him at 4 when he by himself needed help
    Anyhow I know he struggled through school his father helped hide his weakness he did that with our 4 sons in fact
    Unacceptable to have a teacher for 3 years 9 – 12 yr old that’s exactly when the serious damage was done to him by one I’m sorry to say a rotten horrible cruel teacher who ridiculed him to constipation asthma and finally I / he and I told our G P she advised him the next time she makes him feel bad that he is to write her a lertter
    He did that he couldn’t have been more than 8 yrs old. He was so upset I told him let’s do this now I drove down to the private school costing a fortune and I went in giving her the letter
    She read it then crushed it up and threw it in the bin. My son said he was keeping a copy to tell his children
    His father never supported me
    His father paid school fees for show because his sons were not reaching their potential at 14 and 12 yrs old I discovered through the ed psychologist they both had a language disorder I took them privately for language therapy both highly intelligent if only they had gotten therapy at 18 months that is the correct age to get them
    The third son went for language therapy in the public system they didn’t give the same results
    The forth son as I already said was so unhappy lagging behind and he didn’t get the help at the crucial time for him
    He remained in that private school he was exempted from the Irish language in state exams he did his leaving cert
    At 15 yrs old he a horrific experience in the dentist chair the dentist suffers mental illness I didn’t know my sons jaw was broken the medics look away
    It was after this dental he begun to get depressed not surprising his father would’ve look into his mouth
    And no other orthodontist would get involved
    I attended sol with him it’s just all disgusting
    He still at bad times won’t touch meat it’s the taste of blood
    By the age of 23 he gotten two different jobs but lost them each after 6 months the only reason I was told he was too quiet
    Well that’s what happens when he through no fault of his misinterpreting then probably laughed at and a teacher constantly downing him
    Can you blame anyone for retreating into their own and getting tormented with thoughts that did become real to him
    He’d tell me after my mum died
    Deaths always upset him
    His father wealthy self made business man was verbally abusive to his mum
    The youngest saw the 3 brothers and whatever good bad
    I suppose he compared himself
    He actually had an extremely good memory
    He needs expert psychological counseling as he had to be involuntary in stress clinic 3 months that became another 3 months
    He is not good at talking through
    He would let things be rather that blame even the perpetrator
    I think this is all typical because of the bad handling in school and subsequent debtdl doctor horror his trust destroyed
    Trust his dad his brothers have also just given up on him
    It’s all caused awful distress for me
    I’m glad to read that dyslexia and psycho are getting the recognition and I hope the help by ONLY SUITED ADULTS !
    I think a teacher who did that should be literally struck off and told to get a new profession they can the children they damage continue to get ridiculed through life that’s mental cruelty
    To destroy a child into silence that he even goes around in the school yard listening to his music that’s not right
    Anyhow I hope only those suited get to help these children I think mental illness could be actually almost fully eradicated
    It’s got to do with trust and respect
    Get to them at 18 months not to make geniuses that’s damaging too.
    I hope when my son is ready that he will go to a trusted therapist and maybe he could help kids from his experience guess what he loved his school his friends
    He doesn’t speak badly of anyone
    Hopefully he can learn to manage into his future It’s very hard when you’ve gone down the rabbit hole to really ever get out
    His begun young that did not have to be
    I’m very upset about that and others things as said the vulnerable are not respected
    Let’s change that

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