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F9 Everyday executive function in huntington’s disease: early deficits assessed by a virtual reality task
  1. Filipa Júlio1,2,
  2. Alexandre Malhão2,
  3. Fábio Pedrosa2,
  4. Hélio Gonçalves2,
  5. Marco Simões2,
  6. Mário R Simões1,3,
  7. Marieke van Asselen2,
  8. Miguel Castelo-Branco2,4,5,
  9. Cristina Januário2,5,6
  1. 1Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences – University of Coimbra, Portugal
  2. 2Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Life Sciences (IBILI) – Faculty of Medicine – University of Coimbra, Portugal
  3. 3Research Centre of the Cognitive and Behavioural Studies and Intervention Nucleus (CINEICC) – Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences – University of Coimbra, Portugal
  4. 4Institute of Nuclear Sciences Applied to Health (ICNAS) – University of Coimbra, Portugal
  5. 5Faculty of Medicine – University of Coimbra, Portugal
  6. 6Coimbra University Hospital, Portugal

Abstract

Background Executive dysfunction is one of the major causes of everyday impairments found in Huntington’s disease (HD). Reliable tools to assess and predict the impact of executive dysfunction on the patient’s activities of daily living are lacking.

Aims This study aims to get a comprehensive picture of the real-life executive deficits shown by HD patients resorting to a novel virtual reality task – “EcoKitchen”.

Methods Participants were assigned to one of three groups (controls, premanifest HD and early manifest HD) and performed a virtual reality task with an increasing executive load that simulates daily-life like routines usually done in a kitchen setting (“EcoKitchen”). Timing and error variables were extracted from the participants’ performance.

Results The preliminary results indicate that both premanifest HD and manifest HD participants showed statistically significant differences in the timing and error variables considered in the “EcoKitchen”, when compared to controls. The clinical groups showed an overall slower cognitive and motor performance, and a higher number of attention errors. Furthermore, in the computerised tasks with higher executive demands, the performance of both clinical groups deteriorated and slowed down.

Conclusions The more ecological assessment task created to evaluate the executive functioning of HD patients seems to be sensitive to early deficits in this domain. Importantly, the timing and error variables included in the computerised task can potentially identify subtle changes in the executive functioning of premanifest individuals and differentiate them from controls even with small sample sizes.

  • Executive Function
  • Virtual Reality
  • Ecological Validity

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