BACKGROUND: In Parkinson's disease (PD), physical activity may represent a possible non-pharmacological intervention not only for improving motor symptoms but also for modulating cognitive impairment.
AIMS: To evaluate the efficacy of an intensive physical program on cognitive functions in mid-stage PD patients with mild cognitive impairment (PD-MCI) over a 6-month follow-up.
METHODS: This is a 6-month randomized controlled follow-up study. 40 PD-MCI patients were randomized to receive physical therapy (PT) or no specific intervention beside drug treatment (CT). Cognitive and motor assessments were performed at baseline (T0), 4 weeks after baseline (T1) and 6 months after T0. In a previous study, we reported a significant improvement in global cognitive functioning and attention/working-memory at T1. Here, we evaluated the residual effect of the training intervention at 6 months on both cognitive and motor performances.
RESULTS: Intra-group analysis showed that at T2 most of cognitive and motor performances remained stable in the PT when compared to T0, while a significant worsening was observed in the CT. Between-group comparison at T2 showed significantly better results in PT than CT as regards MoCA and motor scales. The percentage change of cognitive and motor performances between T1 and T2 confirmed the benefit of physical therapy on global cognitive functioning scores (MMSE and MoCA).
CONCLUSIONS: In this follow-up extension of a longitudinal randomized controlled study, we demonstrated that physical therapy has a positive effect on cognitive functions, which extends beyond the duration of the treatment itself to, at least temporarily, reducing cognitive decline.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Trial registration number (ClinicalTrials.gov): NCT04012086 (9th July 2019).