Recent neuroimaging evidence has led to the proposal that freezing of gait in Parkinson's disease is due to dysfunctional interactions between frontoparietal cortical regions and subcortical structures, such as the striatum. However, to date, no study has employed task-based functional connectivity analyses to explore this hypothesis. In this study, we used a data-driven multivariate approach to explore the impaired communication between distributed neuronal networks in 10 patients with Parkinson's disease and freezing of gait, and 10 matched patients with no clinical history of freezing behaviour. Patients performed a virtual reality gait task on two separate occasions (once ON and once OFF their regular dopaminergic medication) while functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected. Group-level independent component analysis was used to extract the subject-specific time courses associated with five well-known neuronal networks: the motor network, the right- and left cognitive control networks, the ventral attention network and the basal ganglia network. We subsequently analysed both the activation and connectivity of these neuronal networks between the two groups with respect to dopaminergic state and cognitive load while performing the virtual reality gait task. During task performance, all patients used the left cognitive control network and the ventral attention network and in addition, showed increased connectivity between the bilateral cognitive control networks. However, patients with freezing demonstrated functional decoupling between the basal ganglia network and the cognitive control network in each hemisphere. This decoupling was also associated with paroxysmal motor arrests. These results support the hypothesis that freezing behaviour in Parkinson's disease is because of impaired communication between complimentary yet competing neural networks.
- Basal ganglia
- Cognitive control
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Parkinson's disease