We have previously performed detailed clinical and neuropsychological assessments in a community-based cohort of patients with newly diagnosed parkinsonism, and through analysis of a subcohort with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD), we have demonstrated that cognitive dysfunction occurs even at the time of PD diagnosis and is heterogeneous. Longitudinal follow-up of the cohort has now been performed to examine the evolution of cognitive dysfunction within the early years of the disease. One hundred and eighty (79%) eligible patients from the original cohort with parkinsonism were available for re-assessment at between 3 and 5 years from their initial baseline assessments. PD diagnoses were re-validated with repeated application of the UKPDS Brain Bank criteria in order to maximize sensitivity and specificity, following which a diagnosis of idiopathic PD was confirmed in 126 patients. Thirteen out of 126 (10%) had developed dementia at a mean (SD) of 3.5 (0.7) years from diagnosis, corresponding to an annual dementia incidence of 30.0 (16.4-52.9) per 1000 person-years. A further 57% of PD patients showed evidence of cognitive impairment, with frontostriatal deficits being most common amongst the non-demented group. However, the most important clinical predictors of global cognitive decline following correction for age were neuropsychological tasks with a more posterior cortical basis, including semantic fluency and ability to copy an intersecting pentagons figure, as well as a non-tremor dominant motor phenotype at the baseline assessment. This work clarifies the profile of cognitive dysfunction in early PD and demonstrates that the dementing process in this illness is heralded by both postural and gait dysfunction and cognitive deficits with a posterior cortical basis, reflecting probable non-dopaminergic cortical Lewy body pathology. Furthermore, given that these predictors of dementia are readily measurable within just a few minutes in a clinical setting, our work may ultimately have practical implications in terms of guiding prognosis in individual patients.