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

Audrey McKinlay, Michelle Albicini, Phillip S. Kavanagh

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1076
Number of pages6
JournalNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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