Mild Parkinsonian Signs: A Systematic Review of Clinical, Imaging, and Pathological Associations

Mov Disord. 2021 Nov;36(11):2481-2493. doi: 10.1002/mds.28777. Epub 2021 Sep 25.


Mild parkinsonian signs (MPS) have been widely studied during the past 3 decades and proposed as a risk marker for neurodegenerative disease. This systematic review explores the epidemiology, clinical and prognostic associations, radiological features, and pathological findings associated with MPS in older adults free from neurodegenerative disease. We find that MPS as currently defined are strongly associated with increasing age and increased risk of development of Parkinson's disease (PD), all-cause dementia, disability, and death. Positive associations with later PD are found mainly in younger populations and those with other features of prodromal PD. There are currently no consistent radiological findings for MPS, and pathological studies have shown that MPS, at least in the oldest old, are often underpinned by mixed neuropathologies, including those associated with Alzheimer's disease, cerebrovascular disease, nigral neuronal loss, and Lewy bodies. Different subcategories of MPS appear to convey varying risk and specificity for PD and other outcomes. MPS overall are not specific for parkinsonian disorders and, although associated with increased risk of PD, can reflect multiple pathologies, particularly in older individuals. "Mild motor signs" appears a more appropriate term to avoid prognostic and pathological implications, and larger future studies to prospectively examine outcomes and associations of specific MPS subcategories are required. © 2021 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: cognitive disorders; parkinsonism; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Lewy Bodies / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease* / complications
  • Parkinson Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinson Disease* / epidemiology
  • Parkinsonian Disorders* / complications
  • Parkinsonian Disorders* / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinsonian Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Substantia Nigra / pathology