Alpha-synuclein cortical Lewy bodies correlate with dementia in Parkinson's disease

Neurology. 2000 May 23;54(10):1916-21. doi: 10.1212/wnl.54.10.1916.


Background: Dementia is a frequent complication of idiopathic parkinsonism or PD, usually occurring later in the protracted course of the illness. The primary site of neuropathologic change in PD is the substantia nigra, but the neuropathologic and molecular basis of dementia in PD is less clear. Although Alzheimer's pathology has been a frequent finding, recent advances in immunostaining of alpha-synuclein have suggested the possible importance of cortical Lewy bodies (CLBs) in the brains of demented patients with PD.

Methods: The brains of 22 demented and 20 nondemented patients with a clinical and neuropathologic diagnosis of PD were evaluated with standard neuropathologic techniques. In addition, CLBs and dystrophic neurites were identified immunohistochemically with antibodies specific for alpha-synuclein and ubiquitin; plaques and tangles were identified by staining with thioflavine S. Associations between dementia status and pathologic markers were tested with logistic regression.

Results: CLBs positive for alpha-synuclein are highly sensitive (91%) and specific (90%) neuropathologic markers of dementia in PD and slightly more sensitive than ubiquitin-positive CLBs. They are better indicators of dementia than neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plaques, or dystrophic neurites.

Conclusion: CLBs detected by alpha-synuclein antibodies in patients with PD are a more sensitive and specific correlate of dementia than the presence of Alzheimer's pathology, which was present in a minority of the cases in this series.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lewy Bodies / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Synucleins
  • alpha-Synuclein


  • Biomarkers
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SNCA protein, human
  • Synucleins
  • alpha-Synuclein