What Cognitive Changes Occur with PD?

  • The term “cognitive” refers to thinking or the processes involved in knowing or putting together information.
  • It includes a variety of mental skills such as attention, problem-solving, memory, language, visual-perceptual skills, and other aspects of reasoning and general intellect.
  • Many persons with PD complain of slowness in thinking and difficulty with word-finding.
  • Research has found that mild symptoms of cognitive impairment occur in PD patients.
  • Some patients report mild improvements in motivation and concentration after taking anti-Parkinsonian medications.
  • These medications, however, do not typically improve other aspects of memory and thinking abilities.  

While approximately 50% of patients with PD will experience some form of cognitive impairment, not all individuals will be diagnosed with full-blown dementia.

In general, mental and motor decline tend to occur in parallel as the disease progresses. Significant cognitive impairment in PD is often associated with:

  • Caregiver distress
  • Worse day-to-day function      
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Poorer treatment outcomes
  • Greater medical costs due to nursing home placements
  • Increased mortality

Want to Learn More?

Read this "Parkinson Report" article:
How Does the Brain Keep Track of Time?

Read this "What's Hot in PD?" article:
What's Hot: Brain Cells Keep Time Stamps: Implications for Parkinson’s Disease Therapies

Request a free copy of this NPF manual:
Mind, Mood and Memory

Medical content reviewed by: Nina Browner, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and by Fernando Pagan, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

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