Dr. Michael Okun has recently been published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. His article “Are Parkinson’s Patients More Vulnerable to the Effects of Cardiovascular Risk: A Neuroimaging and Neuropsychological Study” can be found in the January 2017 edition or by using the link above.
Objectives: This study examined whether individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are at increased vulnerability for vascular-related cognitive impairment relative to controls. The underlying assumption behind this hypothesis relates to brain reserve and that both PD and vascular risk factors impair similar fronto-executive cognitive systems. Methods: The sample included 67 PD patients and 61 older controls (total N = 128). Participants completed neuropsychological measures of executive functioning, processing speed, verbal delayed recall/memory, language, and auditory attention. Cardiovascular risk was assessed with the Framingham Cardiovascular Risk index. Participants underwent brain imaging (T1 and T2 FLAIR). Trained raters measured total and regional leukoaraiosis (periventricular, deep subcortical, and infracortical). Results: Hierarchical regressions revealed that more severe cardiovascular risk was related to worse executive functioning, processing speed, and delayed verbal recall in both Parkinson patients and controls. More severe cardiovascular risk was related to worse language functioning in the PD group, but not controls. In contrast, leukoaraiosis related to both cardiovascular risk and executive functioning for controls, but not the PD group. Conclusions: Overall, results revealed that PD and cardiovascular risk factors are independent risk factors for cognitive impairment. Generally, the influence of cardiovascular risk factors on cognition is similar in PD patients and controls. (JINS, 2017, 23, 1–10)