Parkinson's Disease Dementia and Potential Therapeutic Strategies


John N. Caviness, M.D., Professor, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 13400 East Shea Building, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, USA. Tel.: +1-480-301-6328; Fax: +1-480-301-8451; E-mail:


Dementia in Parkinson's disease (PD-D) has only been acknowledged in the recent three decades, but research in this field has accelerated. The purpose of this review was to discuss advances in PD-D regarding biomarker correlates and potential therapeutic targets. Attention and executive dysfunction, memory deficits that improve with cueing, and visual hallucinations are characteristic in PD-D. PD-D dramatically increases the disability and misery of the disease. Current treatment for PD-D is symptomatic, modest, and only transiently effective. There is wide agreement that more effective treatment is needed, but this will require more knowledge about PD-D pathophysiology. Advances in the pathogenesis of PD have focused on the substantia nigra, which is the location from where the pathophysiology of motor symptoms primarily arises in initial stages. In contradistinction, pathology studies have suggested that cognitive decline correlates with cortical and subcortical–cortical projection pathway abnormalities. There is evidence that substantia nigra mechanisms, including protein aggregation of α-synuclein (e.g., Lewy bodies) may also play a role in cortical neuron degeneration. Other different mechanisms, such as Alzheimer's disease pathology (e.g., Aβ aggregation) may be operant for PD-D. Biomarkers of various types are being proposed for the study of PD-D as well as for objective measures of PD-D prediction and progression. Therapeutic targets are currently derived mostly from general PD neurodegeneration research rather than cortical PD neurodegeneration per se. Protein aggregation, genes that are associated with PD, oxidative stress, inflammation, and trophic factors constitute the major classes of therapeutic targets for PD-D. More research is needed on the specific aspects of cortical dysfunction and degeneration that create PD-D.