Evidence for Impaired Sound Intensity Processing in Schizophrenia
Patients with schizophrenia are impaired in many aspects of auditory processing, but indirect evidence suggests that intensity perception is intact. However, because the extraction of meaning from dynamic intensity relies on structures that appear to be altered in schizophrenia, we hypothesized that the perception of auditory looming is impaired as well. Twenty inpatients with schizophrenia and 20 control participants, matched for age, gender, and education, gave intensity ratings of rising (looming) and falling intensity sounds with different mean intensities. Intensity change was overestimated in looming as compared with receding sounds in both groups. However, healthy individuals showed a stronger effect at higher mean intensity, in keeping with previous findings, while patients with schizophrenia lacked this modulation. We discuss how this might support the notion of a more general deficit in extracting emotional meaning from different sensory cues, including intensity and pitch.