Parkinsonian patients with deficits in the dysexecutive spectrum are impaired on theory of mind tasks

Alberto Costa, Antonella Peppe, Matteo Martini, Katia Coletta, Massimiliano Oliveri, Carlo Caltagirone, Giovanni A. Carlesimo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the mental states of others entails a number of cognitive processes known as Theory of Mind (ToM). A relationship between ToM deficits and executive disorders has been hypothesized in individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). The present study was aimed at investigating the effect of dysexecutive deficits on ToM abilities in PD patients without dementia. Participants included 30 PD patients and 30 healthy subjects (HC). PD patients were divided into two groups according to their executive test performance: patients with poor (dysexecutive group; n=15) and normal (executively unimpaired group; n=15) performance. All participants were administered faux pas recognition written stories. The dysexecutive PD patients performed less accurately than both HC and executively unimpaired PD individuals on all faux pas story questions (p<0.05); the executively unimpaired PD group performed as accurately as the HC group on the ToM tasks. Results of the study clearly demonstrate that PD is not tout court associated with ToM impairments and that these may occur in PD patients as a function of the degree of their executive impairment. Our findings also indirectly confirm previous data on the role of the prefrontal regions in mediating ToM capacities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-533
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • executive functions
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Theory of Mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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