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Parkinsonian signs and cognitive function in old age

  • DEBRA A. FLEISCHMAN (a1) (a2) (a3), ROBERT S. WILSON (a1) (a2) (a3), JULIA L. BIENIAS (a1) (a4) and DAVID A. BENNETT (a1) (a2)

Studies have shown that parkinsonian signs are related to cognitive function in aging. What remains unclear is whether this association is stronger for some cognitive domains than it is for others, and precisely how much variability in global and specific cognitive functions is explained by the motor signs. We examined the associations between four parkinsonian signs (gait, rigidity, bradykinesia, tremor) and five cognitive domains (episodic memory, semantic memory, working memory, perceptual speed, visuospatial ability) in a large cohort of older persons who were free of Parkinson's disease and dementia and were participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. In a series of regression equations that controlled for age, sex, and education, higher levels of three signs (gait, rigidity, and bradykinesia) were related to lower levels of cognitive function, but they accounted for less than 5% of the variance in most measures. The results did not change when the presence of depressive symptoms, diabetes, and hypertension were added to the models. The cross-sectional association between parkinsonian signs and cognitive function did not vary substantially across specific cognitive domains or specific cognitive tests. The results suggest that parkinsonian signs have a modest, but statistically reliable, association with level of cognitive function in old age. (JINS, 2005, 11, 591–597.)

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Debra A. Fleischman, Ph.D., Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Armour Academic Center Offices, 600 S. Paulina, Suite 1038, Chicago, IL. 60612. E-mail:
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