Authors: Bambini V, Agostoni G, Buonocore M, Tonini E, Bechi M, Ferri I, Sapienza J, Martini F, Cuoco F, Cocchi F, Bischetti L, Cavallaro R, Bosia M
Title: It is time to address language disorders in schizophrenia: A RCT on the efficacy of a novel training targeting the pragmatics of communication (PragmaCom)
Source: Journal of Communication Disorders 2022 97: 106196
Year: 2022
Research Design: Randomised Controlled Trial
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INTRODUCTION: Language and communication disruptions in schizophrenia are at the center of a large body of investigation. Yet, the remediation of such disruptions is still in its infancy. Here we targeted what is known to be one of the most damaged language domains in schizophrenia, namely pragmatics, by conducting a pragmatics-centered intervention with a randomized controlled trial design and assessing also durability and generalization. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study with these characteristics. METHODS: Inspired by the Gricean account of natural language use, we tailored a novel treatment addressing the pragmatics of communication (PragmaCom) and we tested its efficacy in a sample of individuals with schizophrenia randomized to the experimental group or to an active control group. The primary outcome with respect to the efficacy of the PragmaCom was measured by changes in pragmatic abilities (as evaluated with the global score of the Assessment of Pragmatic Abilities and Cognitive Substrates test) from baseline to 12 weeks and at 3-month follow-up. The secondary outcome was measured by changes in metaphor comprehension, abstract thinking, and global functioning from baseline to 12 weeks and at 3-month follow-up. RESULTS: Relative to the control group, at post-test the PragmaCom group showed greater and enduring improvement in global pragmatic skills and in metaphor comprehension. At follow-up, these improvements persisted and the PragmaCom exerted beneficial effects also on functioning. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the limited sample size, we believe that these findings offer initial yet encouraging evidence of the possibility to improve pragmatic skills with a theoretically grounded approach and to obtain durable and clinically relevant benefits. We argue that it is time that therapeutic efforts embrace communicative dysfunctions in order to improve illness outcome.

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