The Role of the Subthalamic Nucleus in Sequential Working Memory in De Novo Parkinson’s Disease




Deficits in maintaining and manipulating sequential information online can occur even in patients with mild Parkinson’s disease. The subthalamic nucleus may play a modulatory role in the neural system for sequential working memory, which also includes the lateral prefrontal cortex.


The objective of this study was to investigate neural markers of sequential working memory deficits in patients with de novo Parkinson’s disease.


A total of 50 patients with de novo Parkinson’s disease and 50 healthy controls completed a digit ordering task during functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning. The task separated the maintenance (“pure recall”) and manipulation of sequences (“reorder & recall” vs. “pure recall”).


In healthy controls, individual participants’ task accuracy was predicted by the regional activation and functional connectivity of the subthalamic nucleus. Healthy participants who showed lower subthalamic nucleus activation and stronger subthalamic nucleus connectivity with the putamen performed more accurately in maintaining sequences (“pure recall”). Healthy participants who showed greater ordering‐related subthalamic nucleus activation change exhibited smaller accuracy costs in manipulating sequences (“reorder & recall” vs. “pure recall”). Patients performed less accurately than healthy controls, especially in “reorder & recall” trials, accompanied by an overactivation in the subthalamic nucleus and a loss of synchrony between the subthalamic nucleus and putamen. Individual patients’ task accuracy was predicted only by the subthalamic nucleus connectivity. The contribution of the subthalamic nucleus activation or activation change was absent. We observed no change in the lateral prefrontal cortex.


The overactivation and weakened functional connectivity of the subthalamic nucleus are the neural markers of sequential working memory deficits in de novo Parkinson’s disease. © 2020 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society


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