Semantic processing errors are symptoms of an up-regulation (schizophrenia) or degradation (Parkinsonism) of dopaminergic pathways. A recent connectionist model attributed errors in the schizophrenic processing of context to increased gain in competitive neural processes. This study extends this "gain hypothesis" by comparing the sensitivity to reduced gain of a simulation of semantic route activation to characteristic semantic judgment errors made by Parkinson's patients in an open search task. Under normal gain conditions, the dominant sense of polysemous words "wins" through competition and lateral inhibition at the word sense level (beta(inh)). For words with very different sense frequencies, decreasing gain by increasing beta(inh) resulted in the dominant word sense winning; however, for words with similar sense frequencies, increasing beta(inh) resulted in the dominant word sense winning only for low to moderate values. At high levels, no clear winner emerged after 200 epochs, with the least dominant sense reaching the maximum activation value. These results are discussed in the context of the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which may provide a theoretical basis for understanding normal and impaired semantic performance in catecholaminergic disorders.