BACKGROUND: Freezing of gait is a common cause of disability and falls in patients with Parkinson's disease. We studied brain functional connectivity, by means of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, in patients with Parkinson's disease and freezing of gait. METHODS: Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T was collected in 29 patients with Parkinson's disease, of whom 16 presented with freezing of gait as determined by a validated freezing of gait questionnaire, and 15 matched healthy controls. Single-subject and group-level independent component analysis was used to identify the main resting-state networks differing between Parkinson's disease patients with and without freezing of gait. Statistical analysis was performed using BrainVoyager QX. RESULTS: Between-group differences in resting-state networks revealed that patients with freezing of gait exhibit significantly reduced functional connectivity within both "executive-attention" (in the right middle frontal gyrus and in the angular gyrus) and visual networks (in the right occipito-temporal gyrus) [p < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons]. Freezing of gait clinical severity was significantly correlated with decreased connectivity within the two networks. Consistent with their "executive-attention" network impairment, patients with freezing of gait scored lower on tests of frontal lobe functions (phonemic verbal fluency: p = 0.005; frontal assessment battery: p < 0.001; ten point clock test: p = 0.04). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that a resting-state functional connectivity disruption of "executive-attention" and visual neural networks may be associated with the development of freezing of gait in patients with Parkinson's disease.
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