People with Parkinson’s Disease are often likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia. By identifying biomarkers associated with this dementia, scientists can increase their chances of finding treatments for the condition, and be able to offer an earlier diagnosis. According to new research, which was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, researcher have taken those first steps, by discovering that a lower concentration of a specific neuronal protein in the cerebrospinal fluid is associated with a reduction in performance on a range of cognitive tests.
This is the largest study to date to explore the association between cognition and these biomarkers, and the findings from this project give hope that patients can be informed as early as possible about their condition, thus giving them the opportunity to seek possible treatments. Conducted as part of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, the study was based on 414 patients with untreated Parkinson’s Disease who exhibited no symptoms of dementia, together with 196 control subjects. All the participants underwent a variety of cognitive tests, including visuospatial, verbal memory, executive function and tests to evaluate attention. If patients exhibited some kind of impairment on at least two tests, they were classed as having mild cognitive impairment.
Researchers concluded lower levels of α-synuclein was associated with a poorer performance
From the investigation, the researchers concluded that lower levels of this neuronal protein, known as α-synuclein, was associated with a poorer performance in the tests. The demographics of the group were also analysed, including gender, age and education, but showed no significant differences. However, the people with Parkinson’s did tend to be slightly older and had a lower level of formal education.
This association between lower levels of α-synuclein and cognitive impairment suggests that this particular protein has an important part to play in early cognitive impairment in people with Parkinson’s, particularly in relation to executive-attentional dysfunction. However, further research is needed to determine what effect it may have on increased risk of future cognitive decline and dementia.
The study is seen to be important, as it gives scientists an insight into the mechanisms that possibly underlie the dementia associated with Parkinson’s. Furthermore, it’s allowed them to take those first all important steps to developing a biomarker that can predict the likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment.
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