Aberrant brain oscillations are a hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD) pathophysiology and may be related to both motor and nonmotor symptoms. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) affects many people with PD even at the time of diagnosis and conversion risks to PD dementia (PDD) are very high. Unfortunately, pharmacotherapies are not addressing cognitive symptoms in PD. Profiling PD cognitive phenotypes (e.g., MCI, PDD, etc.) may therefore help inform future treatments. Neurophysiological methods, such as magnetoencephalography (MEG), offer the advantage of observing oscillatory patterns, whose regional and temporal profiles may elucidate how cognitive changes relate to neural mechanisms. We conducted a resting-state MEG cross-sectional study of 89 persons with PD stratified into three phenotypic groups: normal cognition, MCI, and PDD, to identify brain regions and frequencies most associated with each cognitive profile. In addition, a neuropsychological battery was administered to assess each domain of cognition. Our data showed higher power in lower frequency bands (delta and theta) observed along with more severe cognitive impairment and associated with memory, language, attention, and global cognition. Of the total 119 brain parcels assessed during source analysis, widespread group differences were found in the beta band, with significant changes mostly occurring between the normal cognition and MCI groups. Moreover, bilateral frontal and left-hemispheric regions were particularly affected in the other frequencies as cognitive decline becomes more pronounced. Our results suggest that MCI and PDD may be qualitatively distinct cognitive phenotypes, and most dramatic changes seem to have happened when the PD brain shows mild cognitive decline.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Can we better stage cognitive decline in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD)? Here, we provide evidence that mild cognitive impairment, rather than being simply a milder form of dementia, may be a qualitatively distinct phase in its development. We suggest that the most dramatic neurophysiological changes may occur during the time the PD brain transitions from normal cognition to MCI, then compensatory changes further occur as the brain "switches" to a dementia state.
Keywords: Parkinson’s; beamforming; cognitive impairment; magnetoencephalography; resting-state.