Hannes Devos, PhD

Name of Institution:
Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC), Kansas City, Kansas

Project Title:
Pupillary Response to Cognitive Workload in Parkinson’s disease

Hannes Devos, PhD


Dr. Devos is Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC). As Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Rehabilitation Research in Simulation at KUMC, Dr. Devos is interested in the use of virtual reality and eye tracking to understand multiple aspects of cognition. His postdoctoral work was centered on the use of simulation to investigate oculomotor disturbances during visual scanning in drivers with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The current project is a spin-off of his postdoctoral work, where the response of the pupils to cognitive workload in Parkinson’s Disease will be examined.

Research Objectives and Relevance to Diagnosis/Treatment of PD:

Cognitive changes are common in PD, even in the very early stages. The diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment is a critical milestone in Parkinson’s Disease progression due to its high conversion rate to dementia. Since mild cognitive impairment is an important precursor of dementia, much effort has been invested in identifying the biomarkers and physiological markers of progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. By contrast, very few studies focused on markers of subtle cognitive changes in PD.

One way to investigate early cognitive changes in Parkinson’s Disease is to compare the amount of mental effort needed to complete a cognitive task. Task Evoked Pupillary Response (TEPR) is a reliable and sensitive measure of cognitive workload in older adults. This study will compare the cognitive workload during simple and challenging cognitive tasks between individuals with Parkinson’s Disease and controls with no neurological condition to understand if those with abnormally high TEPR values may be at risk of early cognitive decline. If successful, this TEPR evaluation could alert clinicians very early to cognitive changes that would otherwise go unnoticed.