What Specific Cognitive Problems Do People with PD Face?

 1) Attention:

  • Difficulty with complex tasks that require patient to maintain or shift their attention.
  • Problems with mental calculation of numbers or concentration during a task.

2) Speed of Mental Processing:

  • Just as movement can be slowed in PD, thinking abilities can too.
  • This slowing in thinking is often associated with depression in PD.
  • These problems can be seen as a delay in responding to verbal or behavioral stimuli, taking longer to complete tasks, and difficulty retrieving information from memory.

3) Problem-solving or executive function:

  • Trouble planning and completing activities
  • Difficulties in generating, maintaining, shifting and blending different ideas and concepts.
  • More concrete in approach to tasks.
  • Patients with these deficits often benefit from regular cues or reminders and greater structure of activity.

4) Memory deficits:

5) Language abnormalities:

  • Many PD patients complain of word-finding problems, or the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon.
  • Problems in naming or misnaming objects seen in the middle to late stages of PD.
  • Difficulty with language when under pressure or stress.
  • Difficulty comprehending complex sentences where the question or information is included with other details.
  • Many patients experience problems with production of language and dysarthria.

6) Visuospatial difficulties

  • Can be seen in different stages of PD.
  • During the early stages of PD, patients may have difficulty with measuring distance and depth perception, which may interfere with the patient’s ability to park the car or remember where the car is parked in the parking lot.
  • During the later stages of PD, in combination with dementia, some patients can experience problems with processing information about their surroundings or environment.
  • Subtle visual-perceptual problems may contribute to the visual misperceptions or illusions that are often seen in PD.
  • Patients are usually susceptible to visual misperceptions or illusions in low-light situations (i.e. nighttime) and if they are experiencing other visual problems like macular degeneration.
    Many persons with PD complain of slowness in thinking and difficulty with word-finding.
  • At their most severe, patients may experience problems telling apart non-familiar faces or in recognizing emotional expressions on another person’s face.

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Mind, Mood and Memory

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How does Parkinson's disease affect 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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