In order to investigate the neuronal basis of cognitive disorders in Parkinson's disease, the neuropsychological performance of 120 patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease was analysed in relation to motor symptoms as a function of their response to levodopa. Cognitive impairment was poorly correlated with akinesia and rigidity, symptoms which respond well to levodopa treatment, and was not correlated at all with that part of the patients' motor score that could be improved by the drug. In contrast, strong correlations were found between all neuropsychological test scores and axial symptoms such as gait disorder and dysarthria, which respond little if at all to levodopa treatment. The neuropsychological test scores were also strongly correlated with the motor score of patients estimated when clinical improvement was maximal under levodopa treatment. This score is assumed to represent residual non-dopaminergic motor dysfunctions. The correlations suggest that much of the cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease results from the dysfunction of non-dopaminergic neuronal systems.
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