Freezing of gait is a poorly understood symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD) that is commonly accompanied by executive dysfunction. This study employed an antisaccade task to measure deficits in inhibitory control in patients with freezing, and to determine if these are associated with a specific pattern of grey matter loss using voxel-based morphometry. PD patients with (n = 15) and without (n = 11) freezing along with 10 age-matched controls were included. A simple prosaccade task was administered, followed by a second antisaccade task that required subjects to either look towards or away from a peripheral target. Behavioral results from the antisaccade task were entered as covariates in the voxel-based morphometry analysis. Patient and control groups performed equally well on the first task. However, patients with freezing were significantly worse on the second, which was driven by a specific impairment in suppressing their responses toward the target on the antisaccade trials. Impaired antisaccade performance was associated with grey matter loss across bilateral visual and fronto-parietal regions. These results suggest that patients with freezing have a significant deficit of inhibitory control that is associated with volume reductions in regions crucial for orchestrating both complex motor behaviors and cognitive control. These findings highlight the inter-relationship between freezing of gait and cognition and confirm that dysfunction along common neural pathways is likely to mediate the widespread cognitive dysfunction that emerges with this symptom.
Keywords: Antisaccades; Cognitive control; Freezing of gait; Parkinson’s disease.