Physical activity intensity is associated with cognition and functional connectivity in Parkinson's disease

Published:September 23, 2022DOI:


      • Moderate intensity physical activity (MIPA) is associated with better cognition.
      • 150 min MIPA (World Health Organization recommendation) is associated with better cognition.
      • Physical activity moderated the relationship between functional connectivity and cognition.



      Cognitive impairment is common in Parkinson's disease (PD) and often leads to dementia, with no effective treatment. Aging studies suggest that physical activity (PA) intensity has a positive impact on cognition and enhanced functional connectivity may underlie these benefits. However, less is known in PD. This cross-sectional study examined the relationship between PA intensity, cognitive performance, and resting state functional connectivity in PD and whether PA intensity influences the relationship between functional connectivity and cognitive performance.


      96 individuals with mild-moderate PD completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Intensity of PA was objectively captured over a seven-day period using a wearable device (ActiGraph). Time spent in light and moderate intensity PA was determined based on standardized actigraphy cut points. Resting-state fMRI was assessed in a subset of 50 individuals to examine brain-wide functional connectivity.


      Moderate intensity PA (MIPA), but not light PA, was associated with better global cognition, visuospatial function, memory, and executive function. Individuals who met the WHO recommendation of ≥150 min/week of MIPA demonstrated better global cognition, executive function, and visuospatial function. Resting-state functional connectivity associated with MIPA included a combination of brainstem, hippocampus, and regions in the frontal, cingulate, and parietal cortices, which showed higher connectivity across the brain in those achieving the WHO MIPA recommendation. Meeting this recommendation positively moderated the associations between identified functional connectivity and global cognition, visuospatial function, and language.


      Encouraging MIPA, particularly the WHO recommendation of ≥150 min of MIPA/week, may represent an important prescription for PD cognition.


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