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Speaking with your hands in Parkinson’s: the role of co-speech gestures in communication

Project: Research


Parkinson’s can impact enormously on speech communication. In healthy people, co-speech gestures can add meaning and emphasis to speech. There is some evidence that gestures are reduced by Parkinson’s, alongside other motor problems. Conversely, gestures might provide a means to compensate for poor speech in Parkinson’s. To date, there has been very little research on the effect of Parkinson’s on gestural communication.
This PhD studentship will address three important questions. First, how does Parkinson’s affect the spontaneous production of different types of co-speech gesture? We will compare video footage of people with Parkinson’s and age-matched controls carrying out a description task. Gesture rate and
type will be compared between groups. In addition, we will examine whether changes in gesture are associated with particular characteristics in the Parkinson’s group. Second, are Parkinsonian cospeech
gestures less well understood by other people? We will measure how gestures in clips obtained from the first study influences comprehension in young healthy participants, comparing their responses to the Parkinson’s and control videos. Finally, we will investigate whether Parkinson’s affects peoples’ ability to comprehend co-speech gestures, by comparing a Parkinson’s and control
group on comprehension of the video clips obtained from the healthy participants in the second study.
Overall, this project will contribute to the understanding of gestural communication in Parkinson’s, increasing understanding of an important symptom and paving the way for potential interventions involving gesture. Our findings may also suggest how others can improve their communication with people with Parkinson’s.
Effective start/end date3/09/1231/08/15
  • Poliakoff, Ellen (Principal Investigator)
  • Crawford, Trevor (Co-Investigator)
  • Holler, Judith (Co-Investigator)

Research outputs