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Neurol Res. 2013 Jan;35(1):1-6. doi: 10.1179/1743132812Y.0000000118.

A review of methods used to study cognitive deficits in Parkinson's disease.

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Parkinson's Clinic of Eastern Toronto & Movement Disorders Center, Toronto, ON, Canada.



In addition to the classic motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD), some patients suffer from a variety of non-motor symptoms. Cognitive deficits such as impairments to learning and memory have been noted in PD and pose a clinical concern. However, during early stages of the disease these deficits may be subtle and difficult to diagnose. To date, various methodologies have been used to identify and diagnose these impairments in PD; imaging studies, animal models, and computer simulated learning paradigms being the most popular. This review discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each method in studying cognitive deficits associated with PD.


Imaging studies, including PET and magnetic resonance imaging scans, are useful when studying neural correlates of cognitive tasks. In contrast, toxin-induced and transgenic animal models are well suited for modelling physiological and behavioural conditions observed in humans. Computer simulated learning paradigms are used to analyze cognitive functioning when one engages in a cognitive task.


Based on the level of impairment being studied (i.e. neurobiological, behavioural, cognitive basis, or a combination thereof), the use of these methodologies, individually or in conjunction, is imperative when establishing a complete model of PD and its effect on cognition.

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