Examining the Reserve Hypothesis in Parkinson's Disease: A Longitudinal Study

Mov Disord. 2019 Nov;34(11):1663-1671. doi: 10.1002/mds.27854. Epub 2019 Sep 13.


Background: Whether reserve plays a role in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients has received less attention than in dementia and has been mainly examined in relation with cognitive function.

Objective: To investigate whether reserve plays a role in the severity and progression of motor, cognitive, and nonmotor PD symptoms by examining whether education level (proxy of reserve) is associated with baseline performance and rate of progression.

Methods: We used data from a longitudinal cohort of PD patients (≤5-year disease duration at baseline) annually followed up to 5 years (n = 393; 41% women; mean age = 62.3 years, standard deviation = 10.0; mean disease duration = 2.6 years, standard deviation = 1.5). We examined the relationship of education with time to reach Hoehn and Yahr stage ≥3 using Cox regression and with baseline severity and progression of motor (Movement Disorder Society-Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale parts II and III, gait speed), cognitive (Mini-Mental State Examination), and nonmotor (depression, anxiety, nonmotor symptoms scale, quality of life) symptoms using mixed models.

Results: Education level was not associated with age at onset or diagnosis. Compared with the low-education group, the incidence of Hoehn and Yahr ≥3.0 was 0.42 times lower (95% confidence interval, 0.22-0.82, P = 0.012) in the high-education group. Higher education was associated with better baseline motor function (P < 0.001), but not with the rate of motor decline (P > 0.15). Similar results were observed for cognition. Education was not associated with nonmotor symptoms.

Conclusions: Higher education is associated with better baseline motor/cognitive function in PD, but not with rate of decline, and with a lower risk of reaching Hoehn and Yahr ≥3 during the follow-up. Our observations are consistent with a passive reserve hypothesis for motor/cognitive symptoms. © 2019 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; cohort study; education; progression; reserve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't