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Pragmatic Communication Skills in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

Major collaborators on this project include Dr. Raymon Durso (Boston University, Boston, MA) and Dr. Thomas Holtgraves (Ball State University, Muncie, IN).
This research was funded by NIDCD Grant number 1R01DC007956-03.

Although Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is primarily associated with debilitating extrapyramidal motor dysfunction, PD also affects thinking, reasoning, planning and language functions. The language-related deficits of PD are clinically severe and significant, but, with the partial exception of the sentence processing deficit, they are largely understudied. In particular, the recently documented impairment in the domain of ‘pragmatics’ (McNamara & Durso, 2003; Bhat et al., 2001; Berg et al., 2003) has not yet been studied adequately. It is important to study pragmatic competence in PD because pragmatic dysfunction may be a key component of both the communication disorders associated with PD and the social-cognitive and behavioral disorders of PD.

We propose to expand the study of cognitive and language-related disorders of PD by examining “pragmatic” comprehension and production abilities of PD patients, as well as the relation of these abilities to progression of the disease, dopaminergic medication, and neuropsychologic function. Study of pragmatic language skills in PD will 1) give us a clearer picture of the nature of the pragmatic language-related deficits in PD as well as their cognitive and neuropsychologic correlates; 2) clarify the extent to which pragmatic deficits are related to the social and cognitive deficits of PD; 3) clarify the role of right vs. left frontal neural systems in mediation of pragmatic functions more generally (see below); and 4) establish benchmark data on neural, cognitive and affective correlates of fundamental pragmatic functions which could potentially be used to develop more effective clinical treatments for disorders of social communication.

Recent Pragmatics Publications

Please feel free to email Dr. McNamara for any of these reprints.

  1. Holtgraves, T., & McNamara, P. (2010). Pragmatic comprehension deficit in Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32(4), 388-397. PMID: 19763993
  2. Holtgraves, T., & McNamara, P. (2010). Parkinson’s disease and politeness. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29(2), 178-193.
  3. Holtgraves, T., McNamara, P., Cappaert, K., & Durso, R. (2010). Linguistic correlates of asymmetric motor symptom severity in Parkinson’s Disease. Brain and Cognition, 72(2), 189-196. PMID: 19751960
  4. McNamara, P., Holtgraves, T. Durso, R., & Harris, E. (2010). Social cognition of indirect speech: Evidence from Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Neurolinguistics Journal of Neurolinguistics, 23(2), 162-171. PMID: 20161657
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