Verbal fluency is the ease with which you can produce words and get the words out of your mouth.
If you are being evaluated as a candidate for DBS, it is likely that you will be tested by a neuropsychologist who will administer a battery of tests, including those that measure your verbal fluency.
One of the most common long-term complications for Parkinson’s patients who have had bilateral DBS-STN is a decline in verbal fluency after DBS.
How can your verbal fluency be measured?
Two of the commonly used verbal fluency tests include the following:
Controlled Oral Word Association Test: You are given a letter of the alphabet and told to generate as many words as possible for a minute that begin with that letter. You are instructed to not just add a different ending, like past tense, in order to generate a new word. You are advised not to repeat any words, so it was important that you remember what you say.
Category Fluency Test: You are asked to name as many different examples of the specified category as they can in a minute. Typical categories include animals, fruits, and vegetables.
Although the most common performance measure is the total number of words generated in one minute, other analyses such as number of repetitions, number and length of clusters of words from the same subcategory, or number of switches to other categories can be carried out.
Do these tests just involve generating lots of words?
Most tests of this sort involve more than just producing lots of words. The tests may also involve some conscious mental processing. One important aspect of verbal fluency is having a large vocabulary of words for you to draw on. In addition to having a large vocabulary, it is important that you are able to search rapidly through your vocabulary, find a word that fits the task, speak it and then repeat this until you run out of time. Some people speak much faster than others, some are quicker than others at searching for the right words and some are better at repeating the same thing over and over again.
How did I improve my verbal fluency test scores?
Controlled Oral Word Association Test: On this test, I was given a letter of the alphabet and told to generate as many words as possible within a minute. For example, if I was given the letter “S,” I would generate words that started with SA followed by the consonants in the alphabet.
Examples of words beginning with SA: saber, sack, sad, safety, sage, sake, sale, same, sane, sap, sassy, sat, save, saw.
Go through the same process for words beginning with the following: SE, SI, SO,SU
Category Fluency Test: On the category fluency test, it is possible to prepare ahead by learning a large number of items in the commonly used categories such as animals, fruits, and vegetables.
For example, if you are given the category of animals, start again with the alphabet. Examples of animal words alphabetically are as follows: ape, buffalo, cat, dog, elephant, etc.
Why does it matter?
It is unclear how a decline in verbal fluency as a result of DBS translates into daily functioning in the real world. A decline in verbal fluency might not directly result in complaints of problems in life. Practicing these verbal fluency exercises and other brain games might even improve your verbal fluency in everyday life.