28th March 22:29
Motor Problems Could Be Prelude to Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms that mimic Parkinson's disease might spell trouble for seniors (diabetes neuropsychology stroke)
Motor Problems Could Be Prelude to Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms that
mimic Parkinson's disease might spell trouble for seniors
By Robert Preidt HealthScoutNews Reporter
FRIDAY, April 25 (HealthScoutNews) -- Symptoms that mimic Parkinson's
disease could actually be a prelude to Alzheimer's disease, new
Muscle rigidity, difficulty walking and other motor problems are
linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease, says a study in the
April issue of the Archives of Neurology .
Researchers at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago
found older people who had a rapid progression of these symptoms were
eight times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those
with no worsening of such symptoms.
Seniors with slow to moderate progression of the symptoms had a two to
five times greater risk of developing Alzheimer's.
"So any progression of this at all was a bad prognostic sign and
suggested somehow there are degenerative changes occurring in the
brain that must be contributing to these
(symptoms)," says study author Robert S. Wilson, a professor of
neuropsychology at Rush-Presbyterian.
He and his colleagues studied 824 older Catholic clergy members from
about a dozen states. Their average age at the start of the study was
75.4 years old. None of them had any clinical signs of Parkinson's or
Alzheimer's at the start of the study.
The clergy members were followed for an average of 4.6 years. Some
were studied for as long as eight years; 114 of them developed
Alzheimer's during the study.
Once a year, subjects had clinical exams and completed a modified
version of a test that measures signs of Parkinson's disease. They
also had detailed cognitive testing and were checked for signs of
The researchers found that motor skill problems worsened in 79 percent
of the subjects over the course of the study.
Among that group, those with the most rapid symptom progression had
more than eight times greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease
than the people whose symptoms did not worsen. The risk of
Alzheimer's more than doubled in those with slight symptom progression
and more than tripled in those with moderate progression.
The study also found the rate at which the symptoms worsened was
inversely associated with rates of decline on tests that measured
While these symptoms are similar to those seen in people with
Parkinson's disease, Wilson says they're not actually caused by
"We don't think that these people actually are going to go on to have
Parkinson's disease. The cause of these motor abnormalities is not
securely known, and we think that's going to be an important next
step," Wilson says.
There are some theories about what causes the decline in motor
"I think certainly stroke is one thing that's being looked at and
we're very suspicious about. We're also looking at diabetes," Wilson
says. "Both are things that can increase the risk of Alzheimer's
disease as well."
All the people in this study agreed to donate their brains when they
die to help further this research. Wilson and his team have collected
nearly 250 of those brains so far for ****ysis.
While this study is interesting, its findings aren't all that
surprising, says Bill Thies, vice president of medical and scientific
affairs at the Alzheimer's Association.
"Alzheimer's disease is typically worse in people who have more
dysfunction, and I think that's what this is sort of indicating
here," he says.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the study is the data showing
that annual declines in motor ability are paralleled by reductions in
cognitive function, Thies says. "There's a pretty decent relationship
that would seem to indicate that the faster you're changing in the
motor scores, the faster you're changing in cognition," he says.
While it isn't necessarily a new concept, this study provides actual
evidence of a link between motor and mental skills.
"You hear lots of people talk about this relationship. I haven't seen
a lot where they've actually measured it. It's been an observation
more than anything else. So, from that standpoint, I think it's one
of those studies that sort of confirms a commonly held belief," Thies
Here's where you can learn more about Alzheimer's disease . And the
Alzheimer's Association lists 10 warning signs of the disease .
SOURCES: Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., professor, neuropsychology,
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago; Bill Thies,
Ph.D., vice president, medical and scientific affairs, Alzheimer's
Association, Chicago; April 2003, Archives of Neurology
Copyright © 2003 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.