Advances in markers of prodromal Parkinson disease

Nat Rev Neurol. 2016 Oct 27;12(11):622-634. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2016.152.


Efforts to develop neuroprotective therapy for Parkinson disease (PD) are focusing on the early stages of disease, which offer the best opportunity to intervene. Early PD can be divided into preclinical, prodromal and clinical stages; in this Review, we focus on the prodromal stage and markers that can be used to identify prodromal PD. We consider the necessary properties of a marker, before providing an overview of the proven and potential markers of prodromal PD, including clinical nonmotor markers, clinical motor markers, neuroimaging markers and tissue biomarkers. Markers for which the ability to predict conversion to PD is supported by the strongest evidence include olfactory loss, REM sleep behaviour disorder and constipation. Markers with the highest diagnostic strength include REM sleep behaviour disorder, dopaminergic imaging and subtle motor parkinsonism. The lead time - the period between the appearance of a marker and conversion to PD - is highly variable between markers, ranging from 5 years for impaired motor performance to >20 years for autonomic symptoms. The cost of screening for these markers also varies dramatically: some require just questionnaires, whereas others require sophisticated scanning techniques. Finally, we summarize how prodromal and risk markers can be combined to estimate the probability that an individual has prodromal PD, with a focus on the International Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Society (MDS) Prodromal Parkinson Criteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers*
  • Constipation / diagnosis*
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis*
  • Prodromal Symptoms*
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder / diagnosis*
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder / etiology


  • Biomarkers