Parkinson’s disease patients who received cognitive training while on dopaminergic medication experienced a significant reduction in the severity and duration of freezing of gait (FoG), according to researchers from the University of Sydney.

They also experienced improved cognitive processing speed and reduced daytime sleepiness, according to the study, published recently in Parkinson’s Disease—Nature.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, included 65 Parkinson’s disease patients who self-reported FoG and who were free from dementia.

All of the participants were randomly allocated to receive either a cognitive training intervention or an active control.

The sample of interest included 20 patients randomly assigned to the cognitive training intervention and 18 randomized to the active control group. Both groups were clinician-led and conducted twice weekly for 7 weeks, according to a media release.

The primary outcome was the percentage of time patients spent frozen during a ‘Timed Up and Go’ task, assessed while they were both on and off their dopaminergic medications.

Secondary outcomes included multiple neuropsychological and psychosocial measures, including assessments of mood, well-being and length and quality of sleep.

The researchers report that patients in the cognitive training group showed a large and statistically significant reduction in FoG severity while on dopaminergic medication compared to participants in the active control group on dopaminergic medication.

Patients who received cognitive training also showed improved cognitive processing speed and reduced daytime sleepiness compared to those in the active control while accounting for the effect of dopaminergic medication.

There was no difference between groups when they were tested without their regular dopaminergic medication, the release explains.

“We believe there is reason to be hopeful for the use of these trials in the future,” says study leader, Dr Simon Lewis, in the release.

“The feedback we’ve had from participants and family members involved in this study was overwhelmingly positive. The results of this pilot study highlight positive trends, and the importance of nonpharmacological trials involving cognitive training has become increasingly clear,” adds Lewis, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia.

[Source(s): University of Sydney, EurekAlert]