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Keywords:

  • depressive disorders;
  • neuropsychological deficits;
  • Parkinson's disease

Previous studies have failed to distinguish the differential contribution of major and minor depression to cognitive impairment in patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD). This study was aimed at investigating the relationships among major depression (MD), minor depression (MiD) and neuropsychological deficits in PD. Eighty-three patients suffering from PD participated in the study. MD and MiD were diagnosed by means of a structured interview (SCID-I) based on the DSM-IV criteria, and severity of depression was evaluated by the Beck Depression Inventory. For the neuropsychological assessment, we used standardized scales that measure verbal and visual episodic memory, working memory, executive functions, abstract reasoning and visual-spatial and language abilities. MD patients performed worse than PD patients without depression on two long-term verbal episodic memory tasks, on an abstract reasoning task and on three measures of executive functioning. The MiD patients’ performances on the same tests fell between those of the other two groups of PD patients but did not show significant differences. Our results indicate that MD in PD is associated with a qualitatively specific neuropsychological profile that may be related to an alteration of prefrontal and limbic cortical areas. Moreover, the same data suggest that in these patients MiD and MD may represent a gradual continuum associated with increasing cognitive deficits.