Cognitive dysfunction and dementia in Parkinson's disease

JL Bosboom, D. Stoffers, E.C.M.J. Wolters

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Abstract

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disorder mainly characterized by degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area, in combination with a varying loss of central noradrenergic (locus coeruleus), cholinergic (nucleus basalis of Meynert) and serotonergic (dorsal raphe nuclei) integrity, leading to a multitude of motor and non-motor behavioral disturbances. Apart from the clinical motor hallmarks, in the early stages of disease, subtle cognitive dysfunction might be seen comprising mainly executive dysfunction, with secondary visuospatial and mnemonic disturbances. In about 20-40% of patients, these problems may eventually proceed to dementia, which constitutes an important risk factor for caregiver distress, decreased quality of life and nursing home placement. Dementia in PD is typically characterized by a progressive dysexecutive syndrome with attentional deficits and fluctuating cognition, often accompanied by psychotic symptoms. It is thought to be the result of a combination of both subcortical and cortical changes. PD-related dopaminergic deficiency in the nucleus caudatus and mesocortical areas (due to degeneration of projections from the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area) and cholinergic deficiency in the cortex (due to degeneration of ascending projections from the nucleus basalis of Meynert), combined with additional Alzheimer-pathology and cortical Lewy bodies, may greatly contribute to dementia. Current treatment of dementia in PD is based on compensation of the profound cholinergic deficiency. Recent studies with the cholinesterase inhibitors galantamine, donepezil and rivastigmine show promising results in improving cognition and ameliorating psychotic symptoms, which must further be confirmed in randomized controlled trials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1315
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Volume111
Issue number10-11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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