Pragmatic communication skills in patients with Parkinson's disease

Patrick McNamara, Raymon Durso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations


Background. Pragmatic communication abilities may depend on intact frontal lobe systems. Independent evidence suggests that some persons with Parkinson's disease (PD) are impaired on measures of frontal lobe function. Hypothesis. We therefore hypothesized in Study 1 that pragmatic communication skills would be impaired in some persons with PD and would be linked to frontal dysfunction in these patients. In Study 2 we hypothesized that PD patients would be unaware of their pragmatic communication deficits. Methods. In Study 1 we administered tests of pragmatic abilities and frontal lobe functioning to twenty-two persons with Parkinson's disease (PD) and 10 healthy controls. In Study 2 we obtained self-ratings of pragmatic abilities from 11 PD patients and then checked these self-ratings against ratings of these same abilities by the patient's spouses. Results. We found in Study 1 that patients with PD were: (a) significantly impaired on measures of pragmatic communication abilities, especially in the areas of conversational appropriateness, turn-taking, prosodics and proxemics, and that this impairment was significantly related to measures of frontal lobe function. In study 2 we found that PD patients overestimated their own abilities relative to spousal ratings of those abilities and thus were unaware of the extent of their problems with pragmatic social communication skills. Conclusion. We conclude that pragmatic social communication skills are impaired in PD and that this impairment may be related to frontal lobe dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-423
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Frontal lobes
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Pragmatics
  • Unawareness

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