Dementias - Review article

Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 119, Issue 7, pp 861-875

First online:

CSF and clinical hallmarks of subcortical dementias: focus on DLB and PDD

  • Alessandro StefaniAffiliated withDipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”IRCCS Santa Lucia Email author 
  • , Livia BrusaAffiliated withUOC Neurologia, Ospedale Sant’Eugenio
  • , Enrica OlivolaAffiliated withDipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”
  • , Mariangela PierantozziAffiliated withDipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”IRCCS Santa Lucia
  • , Alessandro MartoranaAffiliated withDipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”

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Dementia has become a relevant problem associated with the elderly in our countries. Increased interest in the field has yielded a copious literature, so far mostly centered on Alzheimer’s dementia. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis combined with neuropsychology, even in absence of neuroimaging, represents the gold standard to reach a diagnosis when cortical cognitive impairment prevails. In view of this, low levels of CSF amyloid peptides β (Aβ) and high tau/Aβ protein ratio, despite prominent impairment of executive functions or concomitant vascular burden, facilitate the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, an early cognitive impairment occurring in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD) or Lewy body disorders (LBDs), both diagnoses posed on pure clinical grounds, remains quite elusive in term of biomarkers or neuropsychological assessment. Whether PD with dementia (PDD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) represent further steps along with a continuum of the same progressive degeneration due to Lewy bodies deposition, rather then the association of Lewy bodies and Aβ pathology, remains a challenging issue. Aim of this work is to set a state-of-the-art on the neuropsychological profiles of both or DLB. Then, we will focus on the ongoing controversies about the specificity of the standard CSF biomarkers if applied to extrapyramidal disorders. Our conclusions are that the CSF pattern, in PDD and DLB, can certainly be distinct from that in AD, though mechanisms leading to dementia could be shared among them. It is possible that, by combining imaging tracers, neuropsychologically careful assessment and renewed CSF biomarkers, DLB can be better distinguished in subgroups, depending on the presence or absence of a relevant amyloid burden. However, more complete data, possibly collected in fieri during the progressive derangement of cognitive abilities, are needed to improve our ability to decipher and treat these entities.


Parkinson’s disease Dementia Lewi body disorders CSF biomarkers