Objectives/aims Do people with Parkinson’s experience more difficulty learning names than their typically ageing peers and younger people? If so, what speech production mechanism accounts for the phenomenon? We compared name learning in young and older adults and people with Parkinson’s. Learning new names in children relies in part on phonological awareness and we hypothesised this would also be the case in older people. Phonological processing is carried out in working memory which is associated with the integrity of frontal areas.
Methods We created names using the General Registry of Scotland database. All three groups learned phonologically familiar (Fraser Hunter) and unfamiliar (Esther Haughton) names in response to faces from the Stirling University Psychological Image database. We performed 3 × 2 ANOVA for groups and name type with the dependent variable of number of correctly recalled names. We assessed degree of frontal change using the Psycholinguistic Assessment of Language Processing in Aphasia battery and the Wisconsin Card Sort Test. We performed correlations with these variables and our name learning scores.
Results People with Parkinson’s learned significantly fewer low frequency names than the other groups. Performance correlated with digit span on the Psycholinguistic Assessment of Language Processing battery and perseveration on the Wisconsin test.
Conclusions Problems in name learning are provoked by decline in phonological ability and working memory possibly underscored by changes in frontal circuitry in Parkinson’s.