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Arch Neurol. 2000 Apr;57(4):470-5.

Cognitive impairment and the brain dopaminergic system in Parkinson disease: [18F]fluorodopa positron emission tomographic study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Turku, Finland.



To investigate the role of the brain dopaminergic system in cognitive impairment in patients with Parkinson disease (PD).


We studied 28 patients with PD and 16 age-matched healthy control subjects using [18F] fluorodopa (fluorodopa F 18) positron emission tomography. Patients with PD showed a variable degree of cognitive impairment, which was assessed using the Mini-Mental State Examination and detailed neuropsychologic assessment, including tests sensitive for frontal lobe function.


[18F] Fluorodopa uptake was reduced in the putamen (to 36% of the control mean; P<.001), the caudate nucleus (to 61% of the control mean; P<.001), and the frontal cortex (to 45% of the control mean; P<.001) in patients with PD compared with controls. There was no significant association between the degree of overall cognitive impairment of patients and [18F] fluorodopa uptake values. The influx constant (Ki(occ)) in the caudate nucleus had a negative association with performance in the attention-demanding Stroop interference task, especially with the interference time. The Ki(occ) in the frontal cortex had a positive correlation with performance in the digit span (backwards), verbal fluency, and verbal immediate recall tests. Thus, the better the patient performed in tasks demanding immediate and working memory and executive strategies, the better the [18F] fluorodopa uptake in the frontal cortex. In the putamen, no significant correlation was seen between the Ki(occ) value and any of the cognitive tests. The severity of the motor symptoms of PD and [18F]fluorodopa uptake showed a negative correlation in the putamen (r = -0.38; P = .04), and in the caudate nucleus a similar trend was seen (r = -0.36; P = .06).


Reduced [18F]fluorodopa uptake in PD in the caudate nucleus (and frontal cortex) is related to impairment in neuropsychologic tests measuring verbal fluency, working memory, and attentional functioning reflecting frontal lobe function. This indicates that dysfunction of the dopamine system has an impact on the cognitive impairment of patients with PD. However, our results do not exclude the possibility of more generalized cognitive impairment in PD, the pathophysiology of which is probably different and more generalized.

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