Which obstacle attributes place additional demands on higher-level cognitive function in patients with Parkinson's disease?

T. Sharon, I. Kurz, H. Bernad-Elazari, S. Shustak, I. Galperin, N. Giladi, A. Mirelman, J. M. Hausdorff, I. Maidan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Previous reports show that patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) rely on prefrontal activation to compensate for impaired motor function during complex activities such as obstacle negotiation. However, the influence of the properties of the obstacles on prefrontal activation has not been systematically evaluated. Here, we examined the effects of obstacle height and anticipation time on prefrontal activation in patients with PD and older adults. Methods: 34 patients with PD (age: 67.4 ± 5.7 years; 14 women) and 26 older adults (age: 71.3 ± 8.9 years; 11 women) walked in an obstacle course while negotiating anticipated and unanticipated obstacles (long/short available time response, ART) at heights of 50 mm and 100 mm. Prefrontal activation was measured using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS); obstacle negotiation performance was measured using Kinect cameras. Results: PD patients showed greater increases in prefrontal activation during and after obstacle crossing compared to the older adults (p < 0.001). Obstacle height affected prefrontal activity only when crossing anticipated obstacles (ARTxheight interaction, p = 0.011), in which case higher obstacles were accompanied by higher prefrontal activity. PD patients showed higher levels of activation during unanticipated obstacles, compared to older adults (groupXART: p = 0.015). Different correlations between prefrontal activation and obstacle negotiation strategies were observed in patients and controls. Conclusions: These results point to the use of prefrontal activation as a compensatory mechanism in PD. Moreover, the higher activation observed when negotiating more challenging obstacles suggests that there is greater reliance on cognitive resources in these demanding situations that may contribute to the higher risk of falls in PD patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-183
Number of pages6
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Available response time
  • Obstacle negotiation
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • fNIRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


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