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Cognitive Impairment in People with Parkinson’s Disease

Posted Aug 16 2010 12:40pm

Diffusion spectrum imaging of the human brain. Source: Van J. Wedeen, M.D., Harvard Medical School

There is much study and research going on about the brain and movement impairment due to Parkinson’s Disease.  However, in the last few months I’ve seen an increase in the number of article that report studies about the brain and cognitive impairment in people with Parkinson’s Disease (PwP).  Until recently the assumption was that cognitive impairment in PwP was due to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Very little research was conducted to show that there are differences in the cognitive impairments between diagnosed patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and PwP.

Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease progress so that they cannot recognize their family and friends. They also forget details about experiences, relationships and suffer from general memory loss.  While some PwP may also exhibit these symptoms, the typical Parkinson’s patient does not suffer from memory loss.  They exhibit other symptoms, for example, difficulty organizing and planning and difficulty controlling their emotions.   We don’t understand the causes of declining motor skills in Parkinson’s Disease patients, and we understand even less about the causes of cognitive impairment in those same patients.

Recently Thomas Montine, a neuropathologist who heads the Parkinson’s disease research center at the University of Washington in Seattle was featured in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Montine’s group studied 345 persons who were healthy, PwP and Alzheimer’s patients.  They found that PwP did not necessarily have Alzheimer’s Disease.  And they also had a promising discovery, that the drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease may be helpful for PwP.

To read more about this study, go to Wall Street Journal .

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