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Characteristics of executive function impairment in Parkinson’s disease patients without dementia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2009

Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Audrey McKinlay, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand. E-mail:


Executive function impairments in Parkinson’s disease (PD) are well documented. However, uncertainties remain regarding the impact of these deficits on other areas of cognitive functioning. The goal of this study was to provide a comprehensive assessment of cognitive characteristics in patients with PD without dementia and to assess how any such deficits affected other areas of cognitive functioning. Forty PD patients without dementia were compared to healthy controls using measures of attention and speed of processing and a comprehensive set of executive function tests including working memory, planning, and problem solving. Measures of memory/learning and visuospatial skills were also included to examine the relationship between aspects of executive function and other areas of cognition. Patients with PD showed deficits on measures of executive function, problem solving, and visuospatial skills. However, they were unimpaired on measures of planning, attention, and memory/learning. Deficits in problem solving were only evident for tasks with a high visuospatial content and were no longer significant when visuospatial skills were controlled for. While deficits in executive function and visuospatial skills were apparent for PD patients compared to controls, many aspects of cognition remained intact. These can provide a focus for cognitive intervention strategies that can be effective in delaying decline for PD patients. (JINS, 2010, 16, 268–277.)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2009

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