Schizophrenia Research Lab begins new study

Deborah Pritchard

Delusions, hallucinations and disorganized speech are three symptoms of schizophrenia.

A new five-year study is underway in the Schizophrenia Research Lab to research the latter.

The disturbances of speech are called Thermal Thought Disorder, said Nancy Docherty, director of the clinical training department of psychology and associate professor. People think the speech is disordered because it expresses disordered thoughts, she said.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and conducted at Community Support Services in Akron, focuses on what kinds of neuropsychological impairments might cause speech disorder instead of disordered thoughts, such as poor attention, a poor working memory, and difficulty putting things in order.

“Schizophrenia is a major mental illness that typically begins in early adulthood, involving delusions, which are false beliefs,” Docherty said. “Many people with schizophrenia hear voices.”

The symptoms of this illness vary from person to person. Some people are unexpressive with their emotions and do not show much facial expression, which is referred to as having flat affect.

The degree to which they have symptoms vary, Docherty said.

“They may be talking about delusional ideals, but you can understand them very well, whereas other people are very hard to follow in their speech; you are not sure what they are trying to say,” she said. “It’s not really one disorder. We don’t know how to sort it.”

Schizophrenia is an area of study that needs more research, she said.

“People really still don’t know for sure what causes the illness, treatment, or how to prevent it,” Docherty said. “If we can really understand better what causes each particular kind of speech disturbance, then we can individualize a plan to work with patients to help them communicate more clearly, which would really improve some peoples lives.”

Contact student life reporter Deborah Pritchard at [email protected].