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After more than a century of neuroscience research, reproducible, clinically relevant biomarkers for schizophrenia have not yet been established. This article reviews current advances in evaluating the use of language as a diagnostic or prognostic tool in schizophrenia. The development of computational linguistic tools to quantify language disturbances is rapidly gaining ground in the field of schizophrenia research. Current applications are the use of semantic space models and acoustic analyses focused on phonetic markers. These features are used in machine learning models to distinguish patients with schizophrenia from healthy controls or to predict conversion to psychosis in high-risk groups, reaching accuracy scores (generally ranging from 80 to 90%) that exceed clinical raters. Other potential applications for a language biomarker in schizophrenia are monitoring of side effects, differential diagnostics and relapse prevention. Language disturbances are a key feature of schizophrenia. Although in its early stages, the emerging field of research focused on computational linguistics suggests an important role for language analyses in the diagnosis and prognosis of schizophrenia. Spoken language as a biomarker for schizophrenia has important advantages because it can be objectively and reproducibly quantified. Furthermore, language analyses are low-cost, time efficient and noninvasive in nature.


Janna N de Boer, Sanne G Brederoo, Alban E Voppel, Iris E C Sommer. Anomalies in language as a biomarker for schizophrenia. Current opinion in psychiatry. 2020 May;33(3):212-218

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PMID: 32049766

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