Objective: To evaluate modifications occurring in cognitive functions and behavioural aspects in a group of 72 consecutive patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) 15 months after bilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN). Methods: 72 consecutive PD patients bilaterally implanted for DBS of the STN were evaluated before and after surgery with a mean follow-up of 15 months. A neuropsychological assessment was performed to evaluate reasoning (Raven Colour Matrices), memory (Bisyllabic Word Repetition Test, Corsi’s Block-Tapping Test, Paired-Associate Learning) and frontal executive functions (Trail Making Test Part B, Nelson Modified Card Sorting Test, phonemic and category verbal fluency tasks). Mood and suicidal ideation were evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Anxiety was measured by means of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and personality traits were evaluated with the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-III-R Axis II Disorders (SCID-II). Assessment of thought disorders and apathy was based on subitems of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. Results: The comparisons between pre- and postoperative neuropsychological test scores showed a significant worsening only in phonemic and semantic verbal fluency tasks, while fewer errors were found in the Nelson Modified Card Sorting Test. Globally, behavioural assessment evidenced a small improvement in mood, as assessed by the BDI, in obsessive-compulsive and paranoid personality traits (SCID-II). Thought disorders worsened while suicidal ideation, anxiety and apathy showed no postoperative modifications. The analysis of individual outcomes (±1 SD criterion) evidenced a relevant postoperative cognitive decline in 3 patients out of 65 (4.5%). Moreover, following implantation, 1 patients exhibited psychosis (1.5%), 2 patients experienced a clinically relevant worsening of depressive symptoms (3%), 7 patients showed an increase in anxiety (12%) and 3 patients a worsening in depression and anxiety symptoms (3%). On the contrary, 12 patients (20%) showed a relevant improvement in mood and 14 patients (23%) a relevant reduction of anxiety symptoms after the surgery. Conclusions: The present study confirms that STN DBS is cognitively safe since the only relevant change observed was a mild decrease in verbal fluency tasks. Globally, a small postoperative improvement was found in the BDI, and in two SCID-II subscales concerning obsessive-compulsive and paranoid personality traits, even though postoperative behavioural disturbances can occur in individual patients.
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