During the COVID-19 outbreak our entire country (the Netherlands) became exposed to the same external stressor, at more or less the same moment in time. In normal situations, many Parkinson’s patients experience stress-related complaints such as anxiety and depression, or notice that their Parkinson’s symptoms worsen during stress. Normally, stressors differ a lot from person to person and that makes it difficult to make comparisons between patients. However, the COVID-19 outbreak offered a unique opportunity to study how a common stressor affects the Parkinson population, and how different people adapt to these circumstances.
Moreover, the COVID-19 outbreak created a natural experiment that helped us to study the value of wearable sensors to detect changes in physiological features that relate to the early onset of a COVID-19 infection.
A new study that we started in April covered both topics, with their own objectives. Read more about this study and the first results below.
Objective 1: Stress
- Evaluate the impact and burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on perceived stress in Parkinson’s disease patients.
- Evaluate how perceived stress relates to motor and non-motor symptom severity in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
- Evaluate which factors (personality, social network, coping strategy, previously collected biological data such as brain imaging, etc.) influence A and B.
Objective 2: COVID-19 symptoms
- Test the feasibility of detecting the early onset of a COVID-19 infection, based on physiological signals, captured with the Verily Study Watch, in people with Parkinson’s disease.
To obtain the goals of the study, participants filled out weekly to monthly questionnaires for six months. By the end of next month the data collection will be completed.
Of all Personalized Parkinson Project participants 358 agreed to take part in this new study (response rate 71.9%). Patients with higher COVID-related stressor load experienced more PD symptoms, and this effect was mediated by the degree of psychological distress. 46.6% of PD patients were less physically active since the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduced physical activity correlated with worse PD symptoms. Symptoms that worsened most were rigidity, fatigue, tremor, pain and concentration. Presence of neuropsychiatric symptoms (anxiety, depression) before the pandemic, as well as cognitive dysfunction and several personality traits predicted increased psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings show how an external stressor (the COVID-19 pandemic) leads to a worsening of PD symptoms by evoking psychological distress as well as lifestyle changes (reduced physical activity).
Click here to read the article ‘The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Psychological Distress, Physical Activity, and Symptom Severity in Parkinson’s Disease’.
Of course the researchers will analyze the dataset more closely when data collection is completed. We will keep you posted on the final results!
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