Sex, dopamine, and hypokinesia: A study of inflectional morphology in Parkinson’s disease.

Objective: Parkinson’s disease (PD), which involves the degeneration of dopaminergic basal ganglia neurons, appears to affect language. We investigated which aspects of language are impaired in PD and what moderates these impairments. Our predictions were based on the declarative/procedural model of language, which links grammar, including in regular inflection, to procedural memory and left-lateralized basal ganglia dopaminergic circuits but links lexical memory, including irregulars, to declarative memory. Because females tend to show declarative memory advantages as compared to males, the model predicts that females rely more on this system for regulars, which can be stored as chunks. Method: We probed regular/irregular Farsi past-tense production in 40 Farsi-speaking patients with moderate-to-severe nondemented PD (half female) and 40 normal controls (half female). Results: Consistent with our predictions, we found that male, but not female, PD patients showed greater deficits at regular than irregular past-tense production. The females’ impairment was mildest for regulars, likely from compensatory storage, as revealed by regular past-tense frequency effects only in females. Right-side hypokinesia (linked to left basal ganglia degeneration) correlated negatively with accuracy of regulars but not irregulars. Similarly, the levodopa equivalent dose of patients’ last medication correlated only with regulars. Conclusions: The results suggest that language is impaired in PD, but the impairments are moderated by multiple factors, including the type of linguistic knowledge, the degree of left basal ganglia degeneration, dopamine, and sex. The findings underscore the impact of sex on the neurocognition of language and the roles of left basal ganglia dopaminergic circuits in aspects of rule-governed grammar. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)