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Lateralized semantic priming: modulation by levodopa, semantic distance, and participants’ magical beliefs

Authors Christine Mohr, Theodor Landis, Peter Brugger

Published 15 March 2006 Volume 2006:2(1) Pages 71—84


Christine Mohr1,2, Theodor Landis3, Peter Brugger2
1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, UK; 2Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland; 3Department of Neurology, Medical School and University Hospital Geneva, Switzerland
Abstract: We tested levodopa effects on lateralized direct and indirect semantic priming in 40 healthy right-handed men in a placebo-controlled, double-blind procedure. Crucially, priming was also analyzed as a function of participants’ positive schizotypal features (magical ideation, MI), previously found to be associated with an enhanced semantic spreading activation (SSA) within the right hemisphere. Across both priming conditions, we observed increased semantic priming in the levodopa group 1) specifically after right visual field stimulations and 2) in high MI scorers. In both instances, increased semantic priming emerged from exceedingly long reaction times to unrelated targets reflecting 1) the left hemisphere’s specialization for closely related concepts and 2) an opposite association between MI and SSA in the levodopa as compared with the placebo group. As a final finding, low MI scorers under levodopa performed like high MI scorers under placebo. Our findings speak against a general dopaminergic focusing of SSA, but one that respects each hemisphere’s specialization. They also suggest that individuals’ schizotypal features are important determinants of dopamine-induced changes in hemispheric functioning. We note that, in psychiatric patients, dopamine antagonists reportedly restore unusual lateralization. We discuss this dissociation between schizotypy and schizophrenia as supporting previous notions of protective brain mechanisms operating in the healthy “psychosis-prone” brain.
Keywords: schizophrenia, schizotypy, language, hemispheric asymmetries, dopamine, lexical decision paradigm

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