A comparison of verbal fluency tasks in schizophrenic patients and normal controls

B. Elvevåg, D. M. Weinstock, M. Akil, J. E. Kleinman, T. E. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Previous studies have reported significant impairment on verbal fluency tasks (semantic and letter) among schizophrenic subjects. However, the possibility of specific categorical deficits has not been adequately investigated. Nor have the effects of task duration, the stability between testing sessions, and the relationship between intelligence and performance on fluency been thoroughly studied. We performed a series of 3 min fluency tasks (semantic/syntactic and letter) to determine whether duration specific or category-specific differences exist between schizophrenic subjects and normal controls. Each subject was tested at three different times as a means of estimating word pool and assessing the stability of fluency output. Subjects were asked to generate exemplars from each of four semantic/syntactic categories (animals, tools, common nouns and verbs) and three letters (G, E and T). Data from 13 schizophrenic subjects and 15 sex-, age-and pre-morbid-IQ-matched control subjects revealed that patients' overall performance on both the semantic and letter fluency tasks was impaired. While differential impairment on specific semantic categories was noted between groups, no differential effects relating to task duration or testing session were present. Further, by comparing the number of novel words produced in the three testing sessions, we found the groups to be equivalent, a finding we take to suggest that schizophrenic patients' lexicon is intact. Covarying current IQ eliminated the group difference robustly for letter fluency, while only marginally for semantic fluency. Our data revealed the presence of impairment in semantic and letter fluency tasks in schizophrenic patients consistent with previous reports, and also that patients were differentially impaired on semantic categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Schizophrenia
  • Verbal fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'A comparison of verbal fluency tasks in schizophrenic patients and normal controls'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this