Promising Outcomes of Original Grant:
In our original study we investigated the processes underlying the freezing phenomenon in PD. In this work we found symptoms of freezing of gait (FOG) could be correlated with performance on cognitive tasks that probe the ability to rapidly handle and switch between different types of information. We were also able to model FOG by using a virtual reality (VR) computer task that patients performed while lying in an MRI scanner. The results of these studies showed under-activation in the parts of the brain that coordinate communication across regions vital for movement and thinking.
Objectives for Supplemental Investigation:
We have demonstrated there appears to be an overlap in the regions of the brain that rapidly handle and switch between different types of information and the phenomenon of FOG. Therefore, we believe it may be possible to reduce FOG by training the brain to "think faster." Through a program of targeted brain training and education we are hoping to "thaw the brain to defrost the feet."
Importance of This Research for the Development of a New PD Therapy:
Currently, FOG does not respond well to any available treatment. If we can confirm that brain training can relieve symptoms, then it may be possible to develop a program that could be rolled out on a large scale, perhaps utilizing an online approach.
We have completed six cycles of cognitive training for patients with freezing of gait. In total, 57 patients completed the program. Many also completed neuroimaging before and after the training to investigate any changes at the neural level. We are currently analyzing this large amount of data to investigate if the program led to changes in freezing severity and frequency, neuropsychological and psychosocial functioning, and neural processing.
Walton CC, Naismith SL, Lampit A, Mowszowski L, Lewis SJG. Cognitive training in Parkinson's disease: A viable therapeutic intervention?. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. (Under Review)
A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial of Cognitive Training for Freezing of Gait in Parkinson's Disease. To be presented at the 20th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders, Berlin, Germany, June 19-23 2016.