Parkinson's disease (PD) is an increasingly prevalent progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to disabling motor, speech, and cognitive symptoms that reduce quality of life for patients and their families. As the prevalence of PD increases, so too does the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a surgical treatment option when medications fail to control motor fluctuations or side effects from medications limit their efficacy. As many as 15% of the more than 1 million American PD patients are felt to be candidates for DBS. The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is the most common target utilized for DBS and limb motor outcomes after STN-DBS show reliable and consistent improvement in properly selected patients. On the other hand speech motor outcomes after STN-DBS are unpredictable and more patients experience deterioration of speech than those that notice improved speech. An estimated 40% of STN-DBS patients notice worsened speech and with declines significant enough to reduce quality of life. Furthermore, few effective treatments exist to provide sustained improvement in speech performance for those with impaired speech. In order to optimize and develop better treatments for those living with PD, it is necessary to better understand the role of STN in speech as contemporary mechanistic models of human speech production omit STN. Here we study 80 PD patients undergoing bilateral STN-DBS along with 40 non-surgical PD control subjects to address existing critical knowledge gaps. We will document speech performance of both groups through functional communication ability (i.e. objective measures of intelligibility and a validated survey tool for quantifying communication participation) and instrumental speech (i.e. acoustic) measures pre-surgery, 6- and 12-months post-surgery with all subjects off PD medications and with the STN-DBS subjects evaluated with stimulation ON & OFF at both post-operative timepoints. Direct neuronal recordings will be obtained during DBS implantation surgery during both speech and limb motor tasks to define speech-specific STN neurophysiology. In addition, we will perform regression analyses using baseline patient factors and intraoperative physiology findings to identify factors leading to the speech outcomes we will document, and test the feasibility of low frequency DBS in reversing DBS- induced speech declines. To our knowledge, this data will be the first of its kind to evaluate patients before, during, and after surgery with the goals of both directly defining the role of STN in speech and predicting speech outcome after STN-DBS. Such knowledge will provide mechanistic insights that cannot be obtained using other techniques and will guide development of new treatments of impaired speech in PD.

Public Health Relevance

Parkinson's disease (PD) patients treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) have unpredictable and varied speech outcomes after this treatment. Our research will prospectively document speech performance before, during and 6- and 12-months after STN-DBS in 80 surgically treated patients and compared with 40 non-surgical PD controls. This study will provide unique insights into the role of STN in speech production, document speech outcome in a comprehensive fashion, identify factors that predict functional communication ability 12 months after STN-DBS, and test the feasibility of low frequency DBS in reversing DBS-induced speech declines in order to optimize treatment strategies for those living with PD.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Motor Function, Speech and Rehabilitation Study Section (MFSR)
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Shekim, Lana O
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University of Iowa
Schools of Medicine
Iowa City
United States
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