If you are a professional working in the field of neurodegeneration, and especially if you work in the field of neuropsychology, you surely know that Parkinson’s disease goes far beyond tremor and muscle rigidity. Parkinson’s, in fact, does not only involve motor symptoms but people suffering from this disease can also develop some non-motor symptoms such as insomnia, depression, constipation, , impulse control disorder, sialorrhea and, of course, cognitive impairment and its most severe manifestation: dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Although statistics vary widely—too much, in our opinion—approximately 25% of people with Parkinson’s disease without dementia are classified as having mild cognitive impairment (Aarsland et al., 2010). A 20-year neuropsychological study with Parkinson’s disease patients suggests that up to 80% of patients with Parkinson’s disease eventually develop dementia (Reid, Hely, Morris, Loy, & Halliday, 2011).
Most frequently impaired cognitive processes in Parkinson’s disease
The profile of cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease patients differs significantly from that of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder for which we already recommended several cognitive rehabilitation exercises a couple of weeks ago.
Attention, visuospatial skills, information processing speed and, especially, executive functioning appear to be the predominant cognitive processes affected in Parkinson’s disease. There is some consensus about executive deficits. The most recent and extensive study on this subject concluded that non-amnestic single domain was the most frequent subtype of mild cognitive impairment in patient’s with Parkinson’s disease, and that executive functions were most frequently impaired (Riedel et al., 2016).
On the basis of these considerations, next Tuesday we will recommend cognitive stimulation activities for people with Parkinson’s disease that have been developed by NeuronUP and which emphasize the most frequently impaired cognitive processes.
Even though we already know that cognitive stimulation should have a general effect on cognition and other areas such as memory and language, the activities should also be a part of the daily routine to improve cognitive functioning.