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The Effects of Deep Brain Stimulation on Speech Intelligibility in Persons With Essential Tremor

Journal article
Authors L. Sandström
P. Blomstedt
F. Karlsson
Lena Hartelius
Published in Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR
Volume 63
Issue 2
Pages 456-471
ISSN 1558-9102
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Pages 456-471
Language en
Subject categories Clinical Medicine


Purpose The aim of this study was to investigate how deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the caudal zona incerta (cZi) affects speech intelligibility in persons with essential tremor. Method Thirty-five participants were evaluated: off stimulation, on chronic stimulation optimized to alleviate tremor, and during unilateral stimulation at increasing amplitude levels. At each stimulation condition, the participants read 10 unique nonsense sentences from the Swedish Test of Intelligibility. Two listeners, blinded to stimulation condition, transcribed all recorded sentences orthographically in a randomized procedure. A mean speech intelligibility score for each patient and stimulation condition was computed, and comparisons were made between scores off and on stimulation. Results Chronic cZi-DBS had no significant effect on speech intelligibility, and there was no difference in outcome between bilateral and unilateral treatments. During unilateral stimulation at increasing amplitudes, nine participants demonstrated deteriorating speech intelligibility. These nine participants were on average older and had more superior contacts activated during the evaluation compared with the participants without deterioration. Conclusions Chronic cZi-DBS, optimized for tremor suppression, does not generally affect speech intelligibility in persons with essential tremor. Furthermore, speech intelligibility may be preserved in many individuals, even when stimulated at high amplitudes. Adverse effects of high-amplitude unilateral stimulation observed in this study were associated with stimulation originating from a more superior location, as well as with the participants' age. These results, highlighting age and stimulation location as contributing to speech intelligibility outcomes, were, however, based on a limited number of individuals experiencing adverse effects with high-amplitude stimulation and should, therefore, be interpreted with caution.

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