, Volume 120, Issue 4, pp 597-605
Date: 20 Dec 2012

Acoustic evaluation of short-term effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on motor aspects of speech in Parkinson’s disease

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Hypokinetic dysarthria in Parkinson’s disease (PD) can be characterized by monotony of pitch and loudness, reduced stress, variable rate, imprecise consonants, and a breathy and harsh voice. Using acoustic analysis, we studied the effects of high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) applied over the primary orofacial sensorimotor area (SM1) and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on motor aspects of voiced speech in PD. Twelve non-depressed and non-demented men with PD (mean age 64.58 ± 8.04 years, mean PD duration 10.75 ± 7.48 years) and 21 healthy age-matched men (a control group, mean age 64 ± 8.55 years) participated in the speech study. The PD patients underwent two sessions of 10 Hz rTMS over the dominant hemisphere with 2,250 stimuli/day in a random order: (1) over the SM1; (2) over the left DLPFC in the “on” motor state. Speech examination comprised the perceptual rating of global speech performance and an acoustic analysis based upon a standardized speech task. The Mann–Whitney U test was used to compare acoustic speech variables between controls and PD patients. The Wilcoxon test was used to compare data prior to and after each stimulation in the PD group. rTMS applied over the left SM1 was associated with a significant increase in harmonic-to-noise ratio and net speech rate in the sentence tasks. With respect to the vowel task results, increased median values and range of Teager-Kaiser energy operator, increased vowel space area, and significant jitter decrease were observed after the left SM1 stimulation. rTMS over the left DLPFC did not induce any significant effects. The positive results of acoustic analysis were not reflected in a subjective rating of speech performance quality as assessed by a speech therapist. Our pilot results indicate that one session of rTMS applied over the SM1 may lead to measurable improvement in voice quality and intensity and an increase in speech rate and tongue movements. Nevertheless, these changes were not accompanied by changes in a perceptual evaluation of speech performance by a speech therapist. Future placebo-controlled studies in larger patient cohorts should verify if rTMS would be clinically useful for treating hypokinetic dysarthria in PD.