Background: Speech impairment is commonly reported in Parkinson’s disease and is not consistently improved by available therapies – including deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS), which can worsen communication performance in some patients. Improving the outcome of STN-DBS on speech is difficult due to our incomplete understanding of the contribution of the STN to fluent speaking.
Objective: To assess the relationship between subthalamic neural activity and speech production and intelligibility.
Methods: We investigated bilateral STN local field potentials (LFPs) in nine parkinsonian patients chronically implanted with DBS during overt reading. LFP spectral features were correlated with clinical scores and measures of speech intelligibility.
Results: Overt reading was associated with increased beta-low ([1220) Hz) power in the left STN, whereas speech intelligibility correlated positively with beta-high ([2030) Hz) power in the right STN.
Conclusion: We identified separate contributions from frequency and brain lateralization of the STN in the execution of an overt reading motor task and its intelligibility. This subcortical organization could be exploited for new adaptive stimulation strategies capable of identifying the occurrence of speaking behavior and facilitating its functional execution.