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Nat Rev Neurol. 2011 Apr;7(4):229-36. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2011.21. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

White matter lesions in Parkinson disease.

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Department of Radiology, University of Michigan Medical School, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Pure vascular parkinsonism without evidence of nigral Lewy body pathology may occur as a distinct clinicopathological entity, but a much more frequent occurrence is the comorbid presence of age-associated white matter lesions (WMLs) in idiopathic Parkinson disease (PD). WMLs are associated with motor and cognitive symptoms in otherwise normal elderly individuals. Comorbid WMLs are, therefore, expected to contribute to clinical symptoms in PD. Studies of WMLs in PD differ with regard to methods of assessment of WML burden and the patient populations selected for analysis, but converging evidence suggests that postural stability and gait motor functions are predominantly affected. WMLs are described to contribute to dementia in Alzheimer disease, and emerging but inconclusive evidence indicates similar effects in PD. In this article, we review the literature addressing the occurrence and impact of WMLs in PD, and suggest that WMLs may exacerbate or contribute to some motor and cognitive deficits associated with PD. We review existing and emerging methods for studying white matter pathology in vivo, and propose future research directions.

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