Acoustic speech markers for schizophrenia-spectrum disorders: A diagnostic and symptom-recognition tool

J.N. de Boer*, A.E. Voppel, S.G. Brederoo, H.G. Schnack, K.P. Truong, F.N.K. Wijnen, I.E.C. Sommer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
160 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Clinicians routinely use impressions of speech as an element of mental status examination. In schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, descriptions of speech are used to assess the severity of psychotic symptoms. In the current study, we assessed the diagnostic value of acoustic speech parameters in schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, as well as its value in recognizing positive and negative symptoms.

Methods: Speech was obtained from 142 patients with a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and 142 matched controls during a semi-structured interview on neutral topics. Patients were categorized as having predominantly positive or negative symptoms using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Acoustic parameters were extracted with OpenSMILE, employing the extended Geneva Acoustic Minimalistic Parameter Set, which includes standardized analyses of pitch (F0), speech quality and pauses. Speech parameters were fed into a random forest algorithm with leave-ten-out cross-validation to assess their value for a schizophrenia-spectrum diagnosis, and PANSS subtype recognition.

Results: The machine-learning speech classifier attained an accuracy of 86.2% in classifying patients with a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and controls on speech parameters alone. Patients with predominantly positive v. negative symptoms could be classified with an accuracy of 74.2%.

Conclusions: Our results show that automatically extracted speech parameters can be used to accurately classify patients with a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and healthy controls, as well as differentiate between patients with predominantly positive v. negatives symptoms. Thus, the field of speech technology has provided a standardized, powerful tool that has high potential for clinical applications in diagnosis and differentiation, given its ease of comparison and replication across samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1302-1312
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological medicine
Issue number4
Early online date4 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Acoustic
  • Biomarker
  • Language
  • Psychosis
  • Speech


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