Reading Other Minds: Theory of Mind in healthy aging and Parkinson's disease.

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dc.contributor.advisor Tippett, L en
dc.contributor.advisor Addis, DR en Samorow, Natalia en 2018-11-26T03:11:00Z en 2018 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description.abstract Non-motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease (PD) can make relating to others difficult. Theory of Mind (ToM), an aspect of social cognition, is one such ability that may be compromised in PD. ToM underlies understanding of others' emotions, knowledge and desires, enabling people to communicate effectively. Research into these abilities in PD has produced conflicting findings, necessitating a well-designed investigation of ToM in PD and potential underlying processes which could contribute to differences in past studies. To design such a study requires a good understanding of ToM abilities in healthy aging. To date, however, the ToM literature in healthy aging also comprises divergent findings, with speculation that suboptimal methodological processes may be, at least in part, responsible for these findings. To address these issues Study One comprised an investigation of ToM abilities in healthy older adults (60 - 93 years). Older (n = 41) and younger adults (n = 31) completed a battery of four cognitive and four affective ToM tasks. The effects of age, executive functioning and face-to-face social contact on ToM performance were also examined. The results revealed poorer performance by the older adult group on three tasks associated with cognitive ToM. In the older adults, increasing age was associated with poorer cognitive ToM performance while higher proportion of engagement in face-to-face social interactions was related to better affective ToM performance. These results informed the design of the study investigating ToM abilities in PD. In Study Two, ToM abilities in individuals with mild-moderate PD (n = 40) and matched controls (n = 40) were examined on four tasks (two cognitive and two affective) ToM tasks. Executive and social functioning were also measured to investigate any influence on ToM performance in PD. Overall, individuals with PD did not differ from matched controls on any of the four ToM tasks, despite showing poorer performance on executive functioning and emotion recognition. Our results indicate that when ToM tasks minimise motor output and reliance on working memory, and include control conditions, individuals with early-to-mid stage PD perform at a similar level as older adults on tasks assessing ToM abilities.Study Three was a pilot study to investigate whether single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) changes in oxytocin receptor gene (rs53576) and dopamine-regulating catechol-o-methyltransferase gene (COMT gene; rs4680) can affect ToM processing in PD and healthy older adults. Both genes impact on dopamine functioning (already compromised in PD) and oxytocin has been linked with ToM functioning in healthy adults and conditions marked by social dysfunctions. Participants provided a saliva sample in order to determine their genotype on the rs53576 and rs4680 SNPs and their performance on the four ToM tasks from Study 2 were tested separately in the two groups (i.e. healthy older adults and individuals with PD). While no significant differences between SNP groups were found in the healthy control group, the results indicated a small effect of the oxytocin rs53576 SNP on the Strange Stories task in the PD group. Individuals with PD with a G/G genotype showed less accuracy discrepancy between conditions, unlike individuals with an A allele present, who showed the expected greater accuracy on the control condition than the ToM condition. These findings extend the previous finding of increased empathy in healthy G/G carriers to include individuals with PD. This thesis suggest there are important factors which can influence ToM performance in healthy aging (e.g. social interactions) and in PD (rs53576 SNP). Overall, however, the performance of the mild-moderate PD participants provided no evidence of decline in ToM abilities. Without the development and use of thorough and carefully designed testing protocols, however, these results may have been different. Future studies, therefore, should expand upon these findings and recommendations, including careful selection of test stimuli and task designs, and elimination (where possible) of factors which may influence ToM performance, but which are, in fact, related to other processes. en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA99265111511302091 en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Previously published items are made available in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. en
dc.rights.uri en
dc.title Reading Other Minds: Theory of Mind in healthy aging and Parkinson's disease. en
dc.type Thesis en Psychology en The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en
dc.rights.accessrights en
pubs.elements-id 756864 en Science en Psychology en
pubs.record-created-at-source-date 2018-11-26 en

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