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Neuropsychologia. 1997 Mar;35(3):221-8.

Memory for spatial location in 'de novo' parkinsonian patients.

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INSERM U 289, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


A deficit in memory for spatial location was recently reported in typical non-demented parkinsonian patients ('standard'). Is this deficit related to dopamine depletion? Such an association would reinforce the suggestion that striato-frontal neuronal circuits are implicated in memory for item-specific spatial coordinates. To answer this question, we compared the performance of 10 recently diagnosed and not yet treated parkinsonian patients ('de novo'), in which the neurobiochemical deficit is considered to involve mainly the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system, to that of 14 controls matched for age, global cognitive efficiency and mood, on a visuospatial learning test. The task required little motor or constructive functions and was designed to allow control of encoding and comparison of free recall, cued recall and recognition. Compared to controls, 'de novo' patients displayed a lower performance in memory for visuospatial location of pictures, contrasting with relative preservation of verbal memory, perceptive visuospatial and executive functions. These results confirm the sensitivity of visuospatial memory even at an early stage of Parkinson's disease and suggest the implication of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system, and associated striato-frontal neuronal circuits, in executive processes needed for spatial location learning.

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