Language impairment in Parkinson's disease: fMRI study of sentence reading comprehension

Novakova L, Gajdos M, Markova J, Martinkovicova A, Kosutzka Z, Svantnerova J, Valkovic P, Csefalvay Z, Rektorova I.

Front Aging Neurosci. 2023 Mar 9;15:1117473. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2023.1117473. PMID: 36967818; PMCID:PMC10033839.

4 Apr 2023

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Parkinson's disease (PD) affects the language processes, with a significant impact on the patients' daily communication. We aimed to describe specific alterations in the comprehension of syntactically complex sentences in patients with PD (PwPD) as compared to healthy controls (HC) and to identify the neural underpinnings of these deficits using a functional connectivity analysis of the striatum. A total of 20 patients PwPD and 15 HC participated in the fMRI study. We analyzed their performance of a Test of sentence comprehension (ToSC) adjusted for fMRI. A task-dependent functional connectivity analysis of the striatum was conducted using the psychophysiological interaction method (PPI). On the behavioral level, the PwPD scored significantly lower (mean ± sd: 77.3 ± 12.6) in the total ToSC score than the HC did (mean ± sd: 86.6 ± 8.0), p = 0.02, and the difference was also significant specifically for sentences with a non-canonical word order (PD-mean ± sd: 69.9 ± 14.1, HC-mean ± sd: 80.2 ± 11.5, p = 0.04). Using PPI, we found a statistically significant difference between the PwPD and the HC in connectivity from the right striatum to the supplementary motor area [SMA, (4 8 53)] for non-canonical sentences. This PPI connectivity was negatively correlated with the ToSC accuracy of non-canonical sentences in the PwPD. Our results showed disturbed sentence reading comprehension in the PwPD with altered task-dependent functional connectivity from the right striatum to the SMA, which supports the synchronization of the temporal and sequential aspects of language processing. The study revealed that subcortical-cortical networks (striatal-frontal loop) in PwPD are compromised, leading to impaired comprehension of syntactically complex sentences.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; functional connectivity; language impairment; sentence reading comprehension; striatum; task fMRI.

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