An investigation of co-speech gesture production during action description in Parkinson's disease

Rebecca A. Cleary, Ellen Poliakoff, Adam Galpin, Jeremy P R Dick, Judith Holler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Introduction: Parkinson's disease (PD) can impact enormously on speech communication. One aspect of non-verbal behaviour closely tied to speech is co-speech gesture production. In healthy people, co-speech gestures can add significant meaning and emphasis to speech. There is, however, little research into how this important channel of communication is affected in PD. Methods: The present study provides a systematic analysis of co-speech gestures which spontaneously accompany the description of actions in a group of PD patients (N 23, Hoehn and Yahr Stage III or less) and age-matched healthy controls (N 22). The analysis considers different co-speech gesture types, using established classification schemes from the field of gesture research. The analysis focuses on the rate of these gestures as well as on their qualitative nature. In doing so, the analysis attempts to overcome several methodological shortcomings of research in this area. Results: Contrary to expectation, gesture rate was not significantly affected in our patient group, with relatively mild PD. This indicates that co-speech gestures could compensate for speech problems. However, while gesture rate seems unaffected, the qualitative precision of gestures representing actions was significantly reduced. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of carrying out fine-grained, detailed analyses of gestures in PD and offers insights into an as yet neglected facet of communication in patients with PD. Based on the present findings, an important next step is the closer investigation of the qualitative changes in gesture (including different communicative situations) and an analysis of the heterogeneity in co-speech gesture production in PD. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)753-756
    Number of pages3
    JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


    • Action
    • Co-speech gesture
    • Communication
    • Non-verbal communication
    • Parkinson's Disease


    Dive into the research topics of 'An investigation of co-speech gesture production during action description in Parkinson's disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this