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Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(6):645-54.

Using executive heterogeneity to explore the nature of working memory deficits in Parkinson's disease.

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1
Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Forvie Site, Addenbrooke's Hospital, University of Cambridge, CB2 2PY, UK. sigl2@wbic.cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD) is characterised by a triad of motor symptoms, namely bradykinesia, rigidity and resting tremor, although cognitive impairment is a common feature of the disease and has been accepted as one of the strong predictors of quality of life in such patients. Neuropsychological testing in Parkinson's disease often reveals a pattern of cognitive impairment similar to that observed in patients with frontal lobe lesions, although clear differences between the two groups have also often been reported. This apparent inconsistency in the literature may reflect heterogeneity among different groups of patients with Parkinson's disease, although to date this possibility has not been formally addressed. In this study, two groups of patients with Parkinson's disease were assessed on a novel verbal memory task, which allowed different aspects of working memory function such as maintenance, retrieval and manipulation to be tested within the same general paradigm. The two groups were selected according to either good or bad performance on a 'standard', visuospatial test of executive function (The Tower of London Task), but were well matched on all other demographic and cognitive measures tested. The sub-group of Parkinson's disease patients with Tower of London defined executive deficit were specifically impaired at manipulating information within verbal working memory, both compared to controls and to the group of patients with no predefined executive impairments. In contrast, the three groups did not differ in their ability to maintain or retrieve information within verbal working memory. Given the known preferential role of the dorsolateral frontal cortex in higher executive functions, (including both planning and the manipulation of information within working memory), these results suggest that, in a subset of Parkinson's disease patients, it is the frontostriatal circuitry involving this region which is primarily affected, while other components of this circuitry may be relatively spared. The results also suggest that performance on the Tower of London task may prove to be a useful discriminant variable in defining the nature of cognitive heterogeneity in Parkinson's disease.

PMID:
12591022
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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