Effects of treatment on orienting in Parkinson disease

Ashley Jagar Hood, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Parkinson disease (PD) is a movement disorder affecting over one million Americans, and 1% of our population over 60 years of age. Currently, PD has an unknown cause, no predictive biomarker, and no cure, yet there are effective treatments (medicine and surgery) to chronically manage the motor symptoms. But, PD patients also develop cognitive symptoms (e.g., distractibility, executive dysfunction) that remain untreated or may decline as a result of treating the motor symptoms. To address this important issue, I measured covert orienting of attention and overt eye movements in PD patients to assess the patients' ability to automatically detect stimuli in their visual field, to predict and attend to where the stimuli would appear, and to volitionally look somewhere else. PD patients completed the cognitive tasks under multiple treatment conditions, and their performance was compared to healthy adults. PD patients first completed the tasks after they had withdrawn from medication. Their unmedicated performance revealed exaggerated automatic orienting, poor predictability, and weak volitional orienting. PD patients then repeated the tasks while medication was giving its peak benefit. The medication returned automatic covert orienting toward normal but did not improve volitional covert orienting. Several PD patients completed the tasks a third time after receiving surgery (specifically, implantation of stimulating electrodes in a subcortical brain region to alleviate motor symptoms). The stimulation (without medication) returned automatic orienting toward normal, did not change predictability, and further impaired volitional orienting. Taken together, treatments prescribed to alleviate the motor symptoms (a patient's primary concern) only improve some cognitive functions. Future studies may establish criteria to predict which patients are more likely to have cognitive benefit from medication over surgery, or vice versa. I have also hypothesized an anatomical model relating orienting circuitry to abnormal PD circuitry and the therapeutic targets. My results suggest medication is more effective restoring the orienting circuitry than stimulation. Further, automatic and volitional orienting abilities seem to be modulated independently, which differs from an earlier model proposing a dependent, inverse relationship. My results are further discussed in terms of response inhibition, response selection, and the location of the selection.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Hood, Ashley Jagar, "Effects of treatment on orienting in Parkinson disease" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3367967.