PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Surgery

Subthalamic Nucleus Deep Brain Stimulation Impacts Language in Early Parkinson's Disease
Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Author: Lara Phillips et al.

by Lara Phillips, Kaitlyn A. Litcofsky, Michael Pelster, Matthew Gelfand, Michael T. Ullman, P. David Charles

Although deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the basal ganglia improves motor outcomes in Parkinson's disease (PD), its effects on cognition, including language, remain unclear. This study examined the impact of subthalamic nucleus (STN) DBS on two fundamental capacities of language, grammatical and lexical functions. These functions were tested with the production of regular and irregular past-tenses, which contrast aspects of grammatical (regulars) and lexical (irregulars) processing while controlling for multiple potentially confounding factors. Aspects of the motor system were tested by contrasting the naming of manipulated (motor) and non-manipulated (non-motor) objects. Performance was compared between healthy controls and early-stage PD patients treated with either DBS/medications or medications alone. Patients were assessed on and off treatment, with controls following a parallel testing schedule. STN-DBS improved naming of manipulated (motor) but not non-manipulated (non-motor) objects, as compared to both controls and patients with just medications, who did not differ from each other across assessment sessions. In contrast, STN-DBS led to worse performance at regulars (grammar) but not irregulars (lexicon), as compared to the other two subject groups, who again did not differ. The results suggest that STN-DBS negatively impacts language in early PD, but may be specific in depressing aspects of grammatical and not lexical processing. The finding that STN-DBS affects both motor and grammar (but not lexical) functions strengthens the view that both depend on basal ganglia circuitry, although the mechanisms for its differential impact on the two (improved motor, impaired grammar) remain to be elucidated.