Australian study uses cognitive training to treat gait freezing

22 May 2018 (Last Updated May 22nd, 2018 11:25)

Researchers at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre have used cognitive training during a clinical trial for the treatment of freezing of gait (FoG), a symptom of Parkinson's disease.

Researchers at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre have used cognitive training during a clinical trial for the treatment of freezing of gait (FoG), a symptom of Parkinson’s disease.

Results from the study demonstrated a significant decrease in the severity and duration of the symptom, better cognitive processing speed and minimised daytime sleepiness.

FoG is characterised by patients becoming stuck and losing the ability to move forward while walking, resulting in falls and low quality-of-life.

“Patients who received the cognitive exercises are said to have demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in FoG severity while on dopaminergic medication, compared to the active control arm.”

According to research, FoG is associated with attention and cognitive control. This was further supported by neuroimaging evidence that showed impairments in the brain’s fronto-parietal and fronto-striatal regions.

During the trial, 20 patients received cognitive training intervention and 18 subjects were given an active control twice-weekly for seven weeks

The primary outcome of the trial was the percentage of time that patients spent frozen during a ‘Timed Up and Go’ task, which was evaluated while patients were on as well as off dopaminergic drugs.

In addition, the trial examined secondary outcomes such as various neuropsychological and psychosocial measures, including analysis of mood, well-being, and length and quality of sleep.

Patients who received the cognitive exercises are said to have demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in FoG severity while on dopaminergic medication, compared to the active control arm.

However, the groups did not display any differences without the regular dopaminergic medication.

Brain and Mind Centre cognitive neuroscience professor Simon Lewis said: “We believe there is reason to be hopeful for the use of these trials in the future.

“The results of this pilot study highlight positive trends, and the importance of non-pharmacological trials involving cognitive training has become increasingly clear.”

The researchers believe that the findings have to be validated in additional, larger studies.