A central executive deficit in patients with Parkinson's disease.
Eight patients with Parkinson's disease and eight matched controls were tested for concurrent task performance to examine whether Parkinson's disease produces deficits in the coordinating and integrating function of the central executive component of Baddeley's working memory model. Consistent with this prediction, the patients showed a significant decline in performance on a random pursuit tracking task while recalling digit span forward sequences, whereas the controls showed no such change. Performance on the component pursuit and digit span tasks, which did not differ between groups, was equated across subjects by varying the size of a target square and by using individual subjects' digit spans. The patient group also produced poorer word fluency scores and reported higher levels of depression, but there was no significant impairment on the Wisconsin card sort test. There was no association between dual task performance and any psychometric measure, target size, or disease related variables. Baddeley's working memory model is advantageous in providing a rich conceptual basis to explore and characterise cognitive abilities in patients with Parkinson's disease.