Characterizing the Relationship Between Eye Movement Parameters and Cognitive Functions in Non-Demented Parkinson's Disease Patients with Eye Tracking

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Cognitive impairment is a common phenomenon in Parkinson’s disease that has implications on the prognosis. A simple, noninvasive and objective proxy measurement of cognitive function in Parkinson’s disease will be helpful in detecting early cognitive decline. As a physiological metric, eye movement parameter is not confounded by the subject's attributes and intelligence and can function as a proxy marker if it correlates with cognitive functions. To this end, this study explored the relationship between the eye movement parameters and performance in cognitive tests in multiple domains. In the experiment, a visual search task with eye tracking was set up, where subjects were asked to look for a number embedded in an array of alphabets scattered randomly on a computer screen. The differentiation between the number and the alphabet is an overlearned task such that the confounding effect of cognitive ability on the eye movement parameters is minimized. The average saccadic amplitude and fixation duration were captured and calculated during the visual search task. The cognitive assessment battery covered domains of frontal-executive functions, attention, verbal and visual memory. It was found that prolonged fixation duration was associated with poorer performance in verbal fluency, visual and verbal memory, allowing further exploration on the use of eye movement parameters as proxy markers for cognitive function in Parkinson’s disease patients. The experimental paradigm has been found to be highly tolerable in our group of Parkinson's disease patients and could be applied transdiagnostically to other disease entities for similar research questions.