Parkinsons Disease

Though tremor and other problems with movement are the main features of Parkinson's disease, one-third to one-half of the one million Americans with Parkinson's also have significant cognitive and memory problems. Parkinson's disease, which is most common in people over the age of fifty, involves the loss of neurons in a brain structure called the substantia nigra, which produces dopamine, a chemical messenger that controls movement and helps you form memories. Patients with Parkinson's disease frequently exhibit deficits on tasks of visuospatial analysis and construction (such as assembling puzzles and designs). A small subset of patients develop global dementia with severe deficits in multiple cognitive domains, including memory.

Though the disease is chronic and has no cure, there are medications that can relieve the movement symptoms by providing dopamine. The motor response to medication does not necessarily predict the cognitive response. Surgery and brain stimulation techniques have been developed for treatment of some patients for whom medication does not adequately control the movement disorder.

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