Emotional prosody modulates attention in schizophrenia patients with hallucinations

L. Alba-Ferrara, G. A. de Erausquin, M. Hirnstein, S. Weis, M. Hausmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Recent findings have demonstrated that emotional prosody attracts attention involuntarily (Grandjean et al., 2008). The automat shift of attention towards emotionally salient stimuli can be overcome by attentional control (Hahn et al., 2010). Attentional control is impaired in schizophrenia, especially in schizophrenic patients with hallucinations because the "voices" capture attention increasing the processing load and competing for top-down resources. The present study investigates how involuntary attention is driven by implicit emotional prosody in schizophrenia with auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) and without (NAVH). Fifteen AVH patients, 12 NAVH patients and 16 healthy controls (HC) completed a dual-task dichotic listening paradigm, in which an emotional vocal outburst was paired with a neutral vocalization spoken in male and female voices. Participants were asked to report the speaker's gender while attending to either the left or right ear. NAVH patients and healthy controls revealed shorter response times for stimuli presented to the attended left ear than the attended right ear. This laterality effect was not present in AVH patients. In addition, NAVH patients and HC showed faster responses when the emotional prosody stimulus was presented to the unattended ear, probably because of less interference between the attention-controlled gender voice identification task and involuntary emotional prosody processing. AVH patients did not benefit from presenting emotional stimuli to the unattended ear. The findings suggest that similar to HC, NAVH patients show a right hemispheric bias for emotional prosody processing. AVH patients seem to be less lateralized for emotional prosody and therefore might be more susceptible to interfering involuntary emotional prosody processing; regardless which ear/hemisphere receives the bottom up input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - Feb 14 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Bottom-up
  • Emotions
  • Hallucinations
  • Implicit prosody
  • Lateralization
  • Schizophrenia
  • Top-down

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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