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Speech disturbances in schizophrenia: assessing cross-linguistic generalizability of NLP automated measures of coherence

By Alberto Parola, Jessica Mary Lin, Arndis Simonsen, Vibeke Bliksted, Yuan Zhou, Wang Huiling, Lana Inoue, Katja Koelkebeck, Riccardo Fusaroli

Posted 31 Mar 2022
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2022.03.28.22272995

IntroductionLanguage disorders - disorganized and incoherent speech in particular - are distinctive features of schizophrenia. Natural language processing (NLP) offers automated measures of incoherent speech as promising markers for schizophrenia. However, the scientific and clinical impact of NLP markers depends on their generalizability across contexts, samples, and languages, which we systematically assessed in the present study relying on a large, novel, cross-linguistic corpus. MethodsWe collected a Danish (DK), German (GE), and Chinese (CH) cross-linguistic dataset involving transcripts from 187 participants with schizophrenia (111DK, 25GE, 51CH) and 200 matched controls (129DK, 29GE, 42CH) performing the Animated Triangle task. Fourteen previously published NLP coherence measures were calculated, and between-groups differences and association with symptoms were tested for cross-linguistic generalizability. ResultsOne coherence measure robustly generalized across samples and languages. We found several language-specific effects, some of which partially replicated previous findings (lower coherence in German and Chinese patients), while others did not (higher coherence in Danish patients). We found several associations between symptoms and measures of coherence, but the effects were generally inconsistent across languages and rating scales. ConclusionsUsing a cumulative approach, we have shown that NLP findings of reduced semantic coherence in schizophrenia have limited generalizability across different languages, samples, and measures. We argue that several factors such as sociodemographic and clinical heterogeneity, cross-linguistic variation, and the different NLP measures reflecting different clinical aspects may be responsible for this variability. Future studies should take this variability into account in order to develop effective clinical applications targeting different patient populations.

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