Effects of stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus on naming and reading nouns and verbs in Parkinson's disease

Maria Caterina Silveri, Nicoletta Ciccarelli, Eleonora Baldonero, Carla Piano, Massimiliano Zinno, Francesco Soleti, Anna Rita Bentivoglio, Alberto Albanese, Antonio Daniele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An impairment for verbs has been described in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), suggesting that a disruption of frontal-subcortical circuits may result in dysfunction of the neural systems involved in action-verb processing. A previous study suggested that deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) during verb generation may affect the ability to select from many competing lexical alternatives.In this study, 12 PD patients who had undergone bilateral STN DBS and completed an 8-year follow-up and 14 matched normal controls were administered action and object naming tasks and verb and noun reading tasks. Their responses were recorded using a microphone, resulting in a signal that marked the onset of the verbal response and allowed to measure response times (RTs). Accuracy was scored manually. Results: Overall performance in naming (independently of stimulation): In naming task controls were faster and more accurate than PD patients. In both groups, performance (accuracy and RTs) was worse on action naming than object naming. PD patients were significantly slower than controls in naming actions. Effect of stimulation: Compared with the OFF stimulation condition, in ON stimulation condition PD patients showed improved performance on object and action naming tasks (increased accuracy, faster RTs), with a decreased number of semantic errors. Some evidence also emerged that action naming in the ON stimulation condition improved more than object naming. On noun and verb reading tasks, although accuracy was at ceiling in both groups and no significant difference was observed in RTs for nouns and verbs, PD patients were slower than controls. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that STN DBS may improve lexical search in PD patients. We hypothesize that STN stimulation may facilitate the motor components involved in naming and reading tasks (increased speed of speech onset), resulting in shorter RTs in both naming and reading and, to some extent, in increased accuracy in naming due to fewer omissions (no response within the 7500. ms time limit). However, to account for greater accuracy in naming due to decreased number of semantic errors in the ON stimulation condition, we hypothesize that STN stimulation restores the activity of the corticostriatal circuits involved in selection processes of a target word among different alternatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1980-1989
Number of pages10
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Corticostriatal circuits
  • Executive functions
  • Lexical research
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Verbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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