Mental & Emotional Health

Diagnosing Parkinson's-Related Dementia

Researchers have determined that it may now be possible to identify Parkinson's patients who will go on to develop dementia.

A study conducted by researchers from the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal used magnetic resonance imaging in reaching its conclusion. The findings were published in the journal Brain.

Parkinson’s is usually associated with problems such as trembling, but patients also have a six times greater risk of developing dementia than do those who don’t have Parkinson’s.

Dr. Oury Monchi, PhD, and his postdoctoral student, Dr. Alexandru Hanganu, MD, PhD, studied 32 patients in the first stages of Parkinson's disease. Some of the patients had mild cognitive impairments while others did not. A control group of 18 healthy people was also followed over the 20-month course of the study.

“Using magnetic resonance imaging, we found thinning in certain cortical areas as well as subcortical atrophy in…subjects with mild cognitive impairments,” Monchi said. “Thanks to our longitudinal approach, we were able to observe that this thinning speeds up in conjunction with the increase in cognitive problems.”

That deterioration, combined with the presence of mild cognitive impairment, could become markers to determine the development of dementia.

Monchi said that the discovery has significant ramifications. “This study opens the door to further research, for example, on medication or on non-pharmacological approaches such as transcranial magnetic stimulation. It's important for these patients to be identified very quickly before they develop dementia so that a therapeutic approach can be adapted to their specific needs.”


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