Unilateral subthalamotomy in Parkinson's disease: Cognitive, psychiatric and neuroimaging changes.
OBJECTIVE The decrease in verbal fluency in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) undergoing subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS) is usually assumed to reflect a frontal lobe-related cognitive dysfunction, although evidence for this is lacking. METHODS To explore its underlying mechanisms, we combined neuropsychological, psychiatric and motor assessments with an examination of brain metabolism using F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography, in 26 patients with PD, 3 months before and after surgery. We divided these patients into two groups, depending on whether or not they exhibited a postoperative deterioration in either phonemic (10 patients) or semantic (8 patients) fluency. We then compared the STN-DBS groups with and without verbal deterioration on changes in clinical measures and brain metabolism. RESULTS We did not find any neuropsychological change supporting the presence of an executive dysfunction in patients with a deficit in either phonemic or semantic fluency. Similarly, a comparison of patients with or without impaired fluency on brain metabolism failed to highlight any frontal areas involved in cognitive functions. However, greater changes in cognitive slowdown and apathy were observed in patients with a postoperative decrease in verbal fluency. CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that frontal lobe-related cognitive dysfunction could play only a minor role in the postoperative impairment of phonemic or semantic fluency, and that cognitive slowdown and apathy could have a more decisive influence. Furthermore, the phonemic and semantic impairments appeared to result from the disturbance of distinct mechanisms.