Background Impairments in functional cognition (cognitive skills underlying the performance of everyday activities) are frequent in Huntington and Parkinson Disease (HD and PD) and are thought to significantly influence the quality of life of patients. Assessment tools that can fully apprehend this domain are scarce.
Aims This study aims to use novel subjective and objective assessment tools to capture the early cognitive and functional changes of HD and PD patients.
Methods The performance of three groups (Controls, Early Manifest HD patients and Early Onset PD patients) was compared in two measures: ‘The Adults and Older Adults Functional Assessment Inventory – IAFAI’, a self-report assessment tool, and EcoKitchen, a non-immersive virtual reality task. Incapacity percentages (IAFAI) and Time and Error variables (EcoKitchen) were computed for each participant.
Results In IAFAI, the two clinical groups reported higher percentages of incapacity in performing activities of daily living compared to controls. PD patients reported higher percentages of incapacity than HD patients. In EcoKitchen, HD patients showed an increased performance time and higher number of errors compared to controls. PD patients were also slower than controls, but no differences were found in the error variables. HD and PD patients differed in the most cognitively demanding trial of EcoKitchen – HD patients had a higher number of errors.
Conclusion The two novel tools used to assess the functional cognition of HD and PD patients were able to detect early impairments in this domain. Moreover, they signalled inconsistencies between the subjective and objective information collected from patients. PD patients reported more functional incapacities than HD patients in IAFAI, but HD patients exhibited more impairments than PD patients in EcoKitchen. Sensitive and ecologically valid assessment methods will allow a more accurate identification and management of the patients’ real-life problems.
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