Gray and White Matter Contributions to Cognitive Frontostriatal Deficits in Non-Demented Parkinson's Disease.
Objective This prospective investigation examined: 1) processing speed and working memory relative to other cognitive domains in non-demented medically managed idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, and 2) the predictive role of cortical/subcortical gray thickness/volume and white matter fractional anisotropy on processing speed and working memory. Methods Participants completed a neuropsychological protocol, Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, brain MRI, and fasting blood draw to rule out vascular contributors. Within group a priori anatomical contributors included bilateral frontal thickness, caudate nuclei volume, and prefrontal white matter fractional anisotropy. Results Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (n = 40; Hoehn & Yahr stages 1–3) and non-Parkinson’s disease ‘control’ peers (n = 40) matched on demographics, general cognition, comorbidity, and imaging/blood vascular metrics. Cognitively, individuals with Parkinson’s disease were significantly more impaired than controls on tests of processing speed, secondary deficits on working memory, with subtle impairments in memory, abstract reasoning, and visuoperceptual/spatial abilities. Anatomically, Parkinson’s disease individuals were not statistically different in cortical gray thickness or subcortical gray volumes with the exception of the putamen. Tract Based Spatial Statistics showed reduced prefrontal fractional anisotropy for Parkinson’s disease relative to controls. Within Parkinson’s disease, prefrontal fractional anisotropy and caudate nucleus volume partially explained processing speed. For controls, only prefrontal white matter was a significant contributor to processing speed. There were no significant anatomical predictors of working memory for either group. Conclusions Caudate nuclei volume and prefrontal fractional anisotropy, not frontal gray matter thickness, showed unique and combined significance for processing speed in Parkinson’s disease. Findings underscore the relevance for examining gray-white matter interactions and also highlight clinical processing speed metrics as potential indicators of early cognitive impairment in PD.