Neural activation in the prefrontal cortex during the digital clock drawing test measured with functional near-infrared spectroscopy in early stage Parkinson's disease


Introduction The clock drawing test (CDT) is a neuropsychological test for the screening of global cognitive functioning. The test requires use of multiple cognitive domains including executive functions, visuospatial abilities and semantic memory and can be a suitable tool for screening cognitive decline in participants in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Behavioral performance on the CDT has been studied in depth, however, neural activation during real-time performance has not been extensively investigated. In this study we explored changes in prefrontal cortex (PFC) activation during the performance of CDT in participants with PD compared to healthy controls (HC) and assessed the correlations between PFC activation and CDT performance. Methods The study included 60 participants, 29 PD and 31 HC participants whom performed a digital CDT (DCTclock) in conjunction with a Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) system measuring neural activation in the PFC. Results HbO2 signals derived from the fNIRS during the CDT revealed that PD participants showed more moderate slopes than the HC in the right hemisphere in the command (p = 0.042) and copy task (p = 0.009). Better score on the measurement of information processing correlated with steeper right hemisphere HbO2 slope in the copy task in the PD group (p = 0.003). Conclusion Our results reflect slower PFC activation in participants with PD which correlates with behavioral measures. In addition, the findings of the study indicate the importance of performing the CDT copy task condition that detect early cognitive decline in participants with PD.

Parkinsonism & Related Disorders