Affective and cognitive Theory of Mind in patients with parkinson's disease

Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2010 Aug;16(7):466-70. doi: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 Jun 9.


Theory of Mind (ToM), which is the ability to infer other people's mental states such as beliefs or desires, is an important prerequisite for social interaction. Affective and cognitive subcomponents of ToM can be impaired selectively in neurological and psychiatric disorders. This study examines ToM in 21 Parkinson's disease (PD) patients and 21 healthy control (HC) subjects, using the computerized "Yoni task" that assesses affective and cognitive ToM abilities and an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests. Furthermore, questionnaires to assess health-related quality of life and depressive symptoms were applied and correlations to ToM were investigated. Compared to the control subjects, PD patients scored lower on both the affective (PD: 76% versus HC: 89%; p = 0.006) and cognitive (PD: 80% versus HC: 92%; p = 0.002) ToM subscales but not on control items (PD: 90% versus HC: 95%; p = 0.077). The ToM abilities were not associated with other cognitive functions, depressive symptoms or clinical data. However, affective ToM was correlated with health-related quality of life (p = 0.01). Parkinson patients are impaired in affective as well as cognitive ToM. These deficits are largely independent from other cognitive impairments, depressive symptoms and motor impairment. The relationship of affective ToM to the health-related quality of life of PD patients points to a clinical relevance of this issue and suggests that ToM dysfunctions must be regarded as an important non-motor feature of Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / etiology*
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / complications*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*