Understanding cognitive deficits in Parkinson's disease: Lessons from preclinical animal models

Nicola Solari, Alessandra Bonito-Oliva, Gilberto Fisone, Riccardo Brambilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parkinson's disease (PD) has been, until recently, mainly defined by the presence of characteristic motor symptoms, such as rigidity, tremor, bradykinesia/akinesia, and postural instability. Accordingly, pharmacological and surgical treatments have so far addressed these motor disturbances, leaving nonmotor, cognitive deficits an unmet clinical condition. At the preclinical level, the large majority of studies aiming at defining mechanisms and testing novel therapies have similarly focused on the motor aspects of PD. Unfortunately, deterioration of the executive functions, such as attention, recognition, working memory, and problem solving, often appear in an early, premotor phase of the disease and progressively increase in intensity, negatively affecting the quality of life of ∼50%-60% of PD patients. At present, the cellular mechanisms underlying cognitive impairments in PD patients are largely unknown and an adequate treatment is still missing. The preclinical research has recently developed new animal models that may open new perspectives for a more integrated approach to the treatment of both motor and cognitive symptoms of the disease. This review will provide an overview on the cognitive symptoms occurring in early PD patients and then focus on the rodent and nonhuman primate models so far available for the study of discriminative and spatial memory attention and learning abilities related to this pathological condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-600
Number of pages9
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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