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The effect of cognitive status and visuospatial performance on affective theory of mind in Parkinson's disease

Authors Mckinlay A, Albicini M, Kavanagh PS

Received 28 May 2013

Accepted for publication 3 July 2013

Published 6 August 2013 Volume 2013:9 Pages 1071—1076


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Audrey McKinlay,1,2 Michelle Albicini,2 Phillip S Kavanagh3

1Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand; 2Department of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University Clayton, VIC, Australia; 3School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, ADL, Australia

Abstract: It is now well accepted that theory of mind (ToM) functioning is impaired in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. However, what remain unknown are the functions that underlie this impairment. It has been suggested that cognitive skills may be key in this area of functioning; however, many of the cognitive tests used to assess this have relied on intact visuospatial abilities. This study aimed to examine whether deficits in ToM were generated by cognitive or visuospatial dysfunction and the mediating effect of visuospatial function on ToM performance. Fifty PD patients (31 male, 19 female; mean age = 66.34 years) and 49 healthy controls (16 male, 33 female; mean age = 67.29 years) completed a ToM task (reading the mind in the eyes) and visuospatial task (line orientation). The results revealed that current cognitive status was a significant predictor for performance on the ToM task, and that 54% of the total effect of cognitive status on ToM was mediated by visuospatial abilities. It was concluded that visuospatial functioning plays an important mediating role for the relationship between executive dysfunction and affective ToM deficits in PD patients, and that visuospatial deficits may directly contribute to the presence of affective ToM difficulties seen in individuals with PD.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease, theory of mind, visuospatial function, social cognition, executive function

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