Parkinson’s disease… more than a movement disorder.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is more than a movement disorder.

Dementia is one of the things people worry about. And a number of people with PD can develop cognitive changes. I want to stress these are DIFFERENT things.

Dementia is a loss of intellectual function (memory, reason, problem solving, abstract reasoning) which is qualitatively different from a previous state of life. Dementia is chronic and progressive and impairs vocational/social function. *Remember the difference between dementia (the umbrella term) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD – a type of dementia)… read more about that HERE.

Now, AD, a type of dementia, involves the external part of the brain (the wrinkly part!), including the neocortex, and typically presents with memory/learning problems.

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This is different than cognitive changes that occur in PD.

The basal ganglia part of the brain (subcortical – inner part of brain!) is affected in PD. The basal ganglia is not just involved in coordinated movement, but a junction site for some cognitive processing. So, cognitive changes in PD are a bit different – it may includes difficulty learning something, but memory of the material is retained. Cognitive changes include slowness of thought, insight, mental flexibility, attention/focus (vigilance). This is where cueing is helpful to retrieve information and for timing. We also see changes in “executive function” in PD, which basically monitors other processes; it is higher cognitive functioning that controls how we interact in the world (timing, appropriate behaviour, sequencing, tasking).

… does that start to clear these terms up? This is my current area of research focus… specifically the impact of these cognitive changes on caregivers, so lots more to come on this! much love.