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Early Thinking Problems May Signal Future Dementia in Parkinson's Patients
Date:3/25/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- People newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease who have minor thinking problems may be on the way to early dementia, according to a new Norwegian study.

Some people with Parkinson's go on to develop dementia, but whether it is possible to predict who will fall into this group hasn't been clear. In this new study, researchers wanted to see if early signs of thinking problems would indicate who these patients might be.

"Mild thinking problems seem to be an important clinical concept for early detection of patients with Parkinson's disease who are at risk to develop dementia," said lead researcher Dr. Kenn Freddy Pedersen, from the Norwegian Center for Movement Disorders at Stavanger University Hospital.

"Specifically, we found that more than 27 percent of patients with thinking problems at diagnosis progressed to dementia during the first three years of follow-up," he said. "Even more interesting, almost half of the patients with persistent thinking problems one year after diagnosis developed dementia during the next two years."

One result was more encouraging: For some patients, thinking ability returned to normal over the course of the study.

Although there is no immediate clinical implication to the new findings, they may be important for trials of drugs that might slow or reverse the process leading to dementia, and the findings may also help in managing patients, Pedersen said.

The report was published March 25 in the online edition of the journal JAMA Neurology.

Dr. Brian Copeland, a movement disorder fellow at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said the study indicates that patients with ongoing evidence of thinking problems are at higher risk of getting dementia.

Although identifying patients with thinking problems is easy to d
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