Background: Pathology reports have shown that cholinergic forebrain neuronal losses in parkinsonian dementia (PDem) are equal to or greater than those in Alzheimer disease (AD). We hypothesized that patients with PDem would have cholinergic deficits that were similar to or greater than those of patients with AD.
Objective: To determine in vivo cortical acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in healthy control subjects and in patients with mild AD, PDem, and Parkinson disease without dementia using AChE positron emission tomography.
Setting: University and Veterans' Administration medical center. Design and Patients Group comparison design of patients with AD (n = 12), PDem (n = 14), and Parkinson disease without dementia (n = 11), and controls (n = 10) who underwent AChE imaging between July 1, 2000, and January 31, 2003. Patients with AD and PDem had approximately equal dementia severity.
Main outcome measures: Cerebral AChE activity.
Results: Compared with controls, mean cortical AChE activity was lowest in patients with PDem (-20.0%), followed by patients with Parkinson disease without dementia (-12.9%; P<.001). Mean cortical AChE activity was relatively preserved in patients with AD (-9.1%), except for regionally selective involvement of the lateral temporal cortex (-15%; P<.001).
Conclusion: Reduced cortical AChE activity is more characteristic of patients with PDem than of patients with mild AD.