A frontostriatal pattern of cognitive decline, consisting of a frontal lobe–like syndrome without genuine cortical defects such as amnesia, apraxia, aphasia, or agnosia, is well established in basal ganglial diseases. Recent pathological investigations, however, have again noted cortical damage in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), suggesting that cortical defects could be present.
To delineate the pattern of cognitive impairment and to detect higher-order motor impairments (including ideomotor apraxia) in parkinsonian syndromes.
Patients and Methods
We assessed ideomotor apraxia, and simple and sequential tapping in patients with Parkinson disease, multiple system atrophy, and PSP with similar disease severity, age range, and education. We also administered a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests to examine general intelligence, memory, executive functions, attention, and visuospatial orientation. The results were compared between groups and with a matched normal control group.
Sequential tapping and the imitation of sequences of gestures were impaired in all patient groups, with patients with PSP performing worse than the other groups. Based on ideomotor apraxia scores and a qualitative analysis of errors, 3 patients with PSP and 2 with multiple system atrophy were considered apraxic. General intelligence and executive functions were compromised in all patient groups. The impairment of patients with PSP was more pervasive than that of the other groups, and included compromise of visuospatial functions, attention, and memory. Discriminant analysis of all cognitive and motor tests showed that the tapping and ideomotor apraxia tests best identified the patients vs control subjects.
The presence of cortical as well as subcortical damage in patients with PSP and those with multiple system atrophy is indicated by the presence of pervasive cognitive and motor disturbances in the former, substantial motor disorganization in the latter, and the finding of ideomotor apraxia in some patients with these diseases. Furthermore, the discovery that tests of motor and gesture best identified all patients vs control subjects is consistent with the existence of a common motor disorganization in these parkinsonian syndromes, in agreement with the known damage to the corticostriatal pathways in these conditions.