Integration of Virtual Reality into Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Improves Cognitive Function in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease with Cognitive Impairment: A Proof-of-Concept Study

SOURCE: Journal of Parkinsons Disease Print. 12(2):723-736, 2022.

AUTHORS: Cheng TC; Huang SF; Wu SY; Lin FG; Lin WS; Tsai PY

BACKGROUND: Emerging evidence has indicated the positive effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

OBJECTIVE: Investigating whether combining virtual reality (VR) training with rTMS can further enhance cognitive improvement induced by rTMS treatment.

METHODS: We randomly assigned 40 patients with PD and MCI into three groups, namely the rTMS-VR group (n = 13), rTMS group (n = 11), and sham rTMS group (n = 16). rTMS was administered as 10 consecutive sessions of intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In the rTMS-VR group, VR training was administered immediately after each rTMS session. Cognitive function was measured using the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) and Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) at baseline, immediately after intervention, and at 3-month follow-up.

RESULTS: Compared with the rTMS group, the rTMS-VR group exhibited significantly more improvements in total and delayed memory scores of the RBANS and the visuospatial/executive function score of the MoCA after intervention (p = 0.000~0.046) and the delayed memory score of the RBANS at 3-month follow-up (p = 0.028).

CONCLUSION: The integrated rTMS-VR protocol achieved a superior outcome in global cognitive function, more effectively enhancing working memory and visuospatial executive function than did the rTMS protocol alone. The combination of VR and rTMS can be an effective regimen for improving the cognitive function of patients with PD.