Perception of Communicative and Non-communicative Motion-Defined Gestures in Parkinson’s Disease

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Objectives: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with deficits in social cognition and visual perception, but little is known about how the disease affects perception of socially complex biological motion, specifically motion-defined communicative and non-communicative gestures. We predicted that individuals with PD would perform more poorly than normal control (NC) participants in discriminating between communicative and non-communicative gestures, and in describing communicative gestures. We related the results to the participants’ gender, as there are gender differences in social cognition in PD. Methods: The study included 23 individuals with PD (10 men) and 24 NC participants (10 men) matched for age and education level. Participants viewed point-light human figures that conveyed communicative and non-communicative gestures and were asked to describe each gesture while discriminating between the two gesture types. Results: PD as a group were less accurate than NC in describing non-communicative but not communicative gestures. Men with PD were impaired in describing and discriminating between communicative as well as non-communicative gestures. Conclusions: The present study demonstrated PD-related impairments in perceiving and inferring the meaning of biological motion gestures. Men with PD may have particular difficulty in understanding the communicative gestures of others in interpersonal exchanges.

Original Citation

Jaywant, A., Wasserman, V., Kemppainen, M., Neargarder, S., Cronin-Golomb, A. (2016). Perception of Communicative and Non-communicative Motion-Defined Gestures in Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 22(5), 540-550. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617716000114