White Noise Speech Illusions: A Trait-Dependent Risk Marker for Psychotic Disorder?

Elaine Schepers*, Richel Lousberg, Sinan Guloksuz, Lotta-Katrin Pries, Philippe Delespaul, Gunter Kenis, Jurjen J. Luykx, Bochao D. Lin, Alexander L. Richards, Berna Akdede, Tolga Binbay, Vesile Altinyazar, Berna Yalincetin, Guvem Gumus-Akay, Burcin Cihan, Haldun Soygur, Halis Ulas, Eylem Sahin Cankurtaran, Semra Ulusoy Kaymak, Marina M. MihaljevicSanja Andric Petrovic, Tijana Mirjanic, Miguel Bernardo, Bibiana Cabrera, Julio Bobes, Pilar A. Saiz, Maria Paz Garcia-Portilla, Julio Sanjuan, Eduardo J. Aguilar, Jose Luis Santos, Estela Jimenez-Lopez, Manuel Arrojo, Angel Carracedo, Gonzalo Lopez, Javier Gonzalez-Penas, Mara Parellada, Nadja P. Maric, Cem Atbasoglu, Alp Ucok, Koksal Alptekin, Meram Can Saka, Celso Arango, Bart P. F. Rutten, Jim van Os

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: White noise speech illusions index liability for psychotic disorder in case-control comparisons. In the current study, we examined i) the rate of white noise speech illusions in siblings of patients with psychotic disorder and ii) to what degree this rate would be contingent on exposure to known environmental risk factors (childhood adversity and recent life events) and level of known endophenotypic dimensions of psychotic disorder [psychotic experiences assessed with the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences (CAPE) scale and cognitive ability].

Methods: The white noise task was used as an experimental paradigm to elicit and measure speech illusions in 1,014 patients with psychotic disorders, 1,157 siblings, and 1,507 healthy participants. We examined associations between speech illusions and increasing familial risk (control -> sibling -> patient), modeled as both a linear and a categorical effect, and associations between speech illusions and level of childhood adversities and life events as well as with CAPE scores and cognitive ability scores.

Results: While a positive association was found between white noise speech illusions across hypothesized increasing levels of familial risk (controls -> siblings -> patients) [odds ratio (OR) linear 1.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02-1.21, p = 0.019], there was no evidence for a categorical association with sibling status (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.79-1.09, p = 0.360). The association between speech illusions and linear familial risk was greater if scores on the CAPE positive scale were higher (p interaction = 0.003; ORlow (CAPE positive sale )0.96, 95% CI 0.85-1.07; ORhigh CAPE positive (scale) 1.26, 95% CI 1.09-1.46); cognitive ability was lower (p(interaction) <0.001; ORhigh cognitive (ability) 0.94, 95% CI 0.84-1.05; ORhigh cognitive abilty 1.43, 95% CI 1.23-1.68); and exposure to childhood adversity was higher (p interaction <0.001; ORlow (adversity) 0.92, 95% CI 0.82-1.04; ORhigh (adversity) 1.31, 95% CI 1.13-1.52). A similar, although less marked, pattern was seen for categorical patient-control and sibling-control comparisons. Exposure to recent life events did not modify the association between white noise and familial risk (p interaction = 0.232).

Conclusion: The association between white noise speech illusions and familial risk is contingent on additional evidence of endophenotypic expression and of exposure to childhood adversity. Therefore, speech illusions may represent a trait-dependent risk marker.

Original languageEnglish
Article number676
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2019


  • white noise speech illusions
  • psychotic disorder
  • Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences
  • cognitive ability
  • childhood adversity
  • life events


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