Affiliations: Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Sun City, AZ, USA | Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
Note:  Correspondence to: Thomas G. Beach, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, 10515 West Santa Fe Drive Sun City, AZ 85351, USA. Tel.: +1 623 876 5643; Fax: +1 623 815 2967; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: Dementia is a frequent complication of Parkinson's disease (PD). About half of PD dementia (PDD) is hypothesized to be due to progression of the underlying Lewy body pathology into limbic regions and the cerebral cortex while the other half is thought to be due to coexistent Alzheimer's disease (AD). Clinically, however, these are indistinguishable. The spread of amyloid plaques to the striatum has been reported to be a sensitive and specific indicator of dementia due to AD. The purpose of the present study was to determine if the presence of striatal plaques might also be a useful indicator of the presence of diagnostic levels of AD pathology within PD subjects. We analyzed neuropathologically-confirmed cases of PD without dementia (PDND, N = 31), PDD without AD (PDD, N = 31) and PD with dementia meeting clinicopathological criteria for AD (PDAD, N = 40). The minimum diagnostic criterion for AD was defined as including a clinical history of dementia, moderate or frequent CERAD cortical neuritic plaque density and Braak neurofibrillary stage III-VI. Striatal amyloid plaque densities were determined using Campbell-Switzer and Thioflavine S stains. Striatal plaque densities were significantly higher in PDAD compared to PDD (p < 0.001). The presence of striatal plaques was approximately 80% sensitive and 80% specific for predicting AD. In comparison, the presence of cerebral cortex plaques alone was highly sensitive (100%) but had poor specificity (48% to 55%). The results suggest that striatal amyloid imaging may be clinically useful for making the distinction between PDD and PDAD.