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Keywords:

  • globus pallidus internus;
  • posteroventral pallidotomy;
  • language;
  • clinically reliable change

Abstract

Traditionally the basal ganglia have been implicated in motor behavior, as they are involved in both the execution of automatic actions and the modification of ongoing actions in novel contexts. Corresponding to cognition, the role of the basal ganglia has not been defined as explicitly. Relative to linguistic processes, contemporary theories of subcortical participation in language have endorsed a role for the globus pallidus internus (GPi) in the control of lexical–semantic operations. However, attempts to empirically validate these postulates have been largely limited to neuropsychological investigations of verbal fluency abilities subsequent to pallidotomy. We evaluated the impact of bilateral posteroventral pallidotomy (BPVP) on language function across a range of general and high-level linguistic abilities, and validated/extended working theories of pallidal participation in language. Comprehensive linguistic profiles were compiled up to 1 month before and 3 months after BPVP in 6 subjects with Parkinson's disease (PD). Commensurate linguistic profiles were also gathered over a 3-month period for a nonsurgical control cohort of 16 subjects with PD and a group of 16 non-neurologically impaired controls (NC). Nonparametric between-groups comparisons were conducted and reliable change indices calculated, relative to baseline/3-month follow-up difference scores. Group-wise statistical comparisons between the three groups failed to reveal significant postoperative changes in language performance. Case-by-case data analysis relative to clinically consequential change indices revealed reliable alterations in performance across several language variables as a consequence of BPVP. These findings lend support to models of subcortical participation in language, which promote a role for the GPi in lexical–semantic manipulation mechanisms. Concomitant improvements and decrements in postoperative performance were interpreted within the context of additive and subtractive postlesional effects. Relative to parkinsonian cohorts, clinically reliable versus statistically significant changes on a case by case basis may provide the most accurate method of characterizing the way in which pathophysiologically divergent basal ganglia linguistic circuits respond to BPVP. © 2004 Movement Disorder Society