Abstract

Word fluency in 45 medicated non-demented Parkinson's disease (PD) patients and 45 normal control subjects was studied with a Phonemic Word Fluency (PWF) task using the letters F, A, and S, a Semantic Word Fluency (SWF) task using the categories animals, boys' names, and states, and an Alternating Word Fluency (AWF) task requiring the person to alternate between colors and occupations, animals and states, and words beginning with C and P. The number of words generated did not differ for trials with F, A, S, or states, but PD patients generated significantly fewer animal names and boys' names. PD patients also generated significantly fewer words on each of the three AWF trials. The PD patients scored 21% lower than the normal control group on the total AWF score, but only 10% lower for the PWF and SWF scores. The greater impairment on the AWF task which requires the use of internal attentional control to rapidly shift mental set can be considered a type of executive functioning deficit. This is consistent with the growing literature suggesting frontal systems dysfunction in PD and with the view that dopaminergic treatment only incompletely restores functioning in the frontostriatal system.