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Functional neurological disorders in Parkinson disease
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  • Published on:
    Degeneration of the locus coeruleus in premotor Parkinson's disease could predispose to functional neurological disorders
    • Stoyan Popkirov, Neurologist University Hospital Knappschaftskrankenhaus Bochum, Germany

    Wissel and colleagues recently reported on a large retrospective case series of patients with functional neurological disorder (FND) and Parkinson's disease (PD) [1]. The authors only briefly touched upon the question of shared pathophysiology, noting that in principle certain structural brain diseases may predispose to FND. The study was not designed to tease out any shared or causal pathways between FND and PD, but some speculation based on the presented data could help formulate useful hypotheses concerning this interesting comorbidity. I propose that a disruption of the central noradrenergic system due to degeneration of the locus loeruleus (LC), the sole source of noradrenaline in the brain with far-reaching projections, is a good candidate for a causal link between FND and (prodromal) PD.
    In the study by Wissel and colleagues FND antedated the diagnosis of PD in 26% of cases, often by several years [1]. This is significant, because it nearly eliminates the possibility that the comorbidity is entirely a matter of symptom modelling or functional overlay in all cases. Considering the typical neuroanatomical progression of Lewy pathology in PD, this suggests that neurodegenerative effects within the lower brainstem (Braak stage 1 or 2) are likely structural candidates for a causal pathway. Early LC pathology has been associated with other premotor manifestations of Lewy pathology and PD such as REM sleep behaviour disorder and cognitive decline. A study using...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.