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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 27 (2013), Issue 4, Pages 523-533
http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/BEN-129018
Research Report

Parkinsonian Patients with Deficits in the Dysexecutive Spectrum are Impaired on Theory of Mind Tasks

Alberto Costa,1 Antonella Peppe,1 Matteo Martini,1 Katia Coletta,1 Massimiliano Oliveri,1,2 Carlo Caltagirone,1,3 and Giovanni A. Carlesimo1,3

1IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy
2Dipartimento di Psicologia, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
3Department of Neuroscience, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Roma, Italy

Received 10 December 2012; Accepted 10 December 2012

Copyright © 2013 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

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.