Altered syntactic abilities in first episode patients: An inner phenomenon characterizing psychosis

the GET UP Group, Giuseppe Delvecchio, Elisabetta Caletti, Cinzia Perlini, Francesca Marzia Siri, Angela Andreella, Livio Finos, Marcella Bellani, Franco Fabbro, Antonio Lasalvia, Chiara Bonetto, Doriana Cristofalo, Paolo Scocco, Armando D'Agostino, Stefano Torresani, Massimiliano Imbesi, Francesca Bellini, Angela Veronese, Cinzia Bressi, Mirella RuggeriPaolo Brambilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Research has consistently shown that language abilities represent a core dimension of psychosis; however, to date, very little is known about syntactic comprehension performance in the early stages of psychosis. This study aims to compare the linguistic abilities involved in syntactic comprehension in a large group of First Episode Psychosis (FEP) patients and healthy controls (HCs). Methods: A multiple choice test of comprehension of syntax was administered to 218 FEP patients (166 non-affective FEP patients [FEP-NA] and 52 affective FEP patients [FEP-A]) and 106 HCs. All participants were asked to match a sentence they listen with one out of four vignettes on a pc screen. Only one vignette represents the stimulus target, while the others are grammatical or non-grammatical (visual) distractors. Both grammatical and non-grammatical errors and performance in different syntactic constructions were considered. Results: FEP committed greater number of errors in the majority of TCGB language domains compared to HCs. Moreover, FEP-NA patients committed significantly more non-grammatical (z = −3.2, p = 0.007), locative (z = −4.7, p < 0.001), passive-negative (z = −3.2, p = 0.02), and relative (z = −4.6, p < 0.001) errors compared to HCs as well as more passive-affirmative errors compared to both HCs (z = −4.3, p < 0.001) and FEP-A (z = 3.1, p = 0.04). Finally, we also found that both FEP-NA and FEP-A committed more grammatical (FEP-NA: z = −9.2, p < 0.001 and FEP-A: z = −4.4, p < 0.001), total (FEP-NA: z = −8.2, p < 0.001 and FEP-A: z = 3.9, p = 0.002), and active-negative (FEP-NA: z = −5.8, p < 0.001 and FEP-A: z = −3.5, p = 0.01) errors compared to HCs. Conclusions: This study shows that the access to syntactic structures is already impaired in FEP patients, especially in those with FEP-NA, ultimately suggesting that language impairments represent a core and inner feature of psychosis even at early stages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Affective psychosis
  • First episode psychosis
  • Grammar
  • Language
  • Non-affective psychosis
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Altered syntactic abilities in first episode patients: An inner phenomenon characterizing psychosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this