Objective: To compare whole brain and caudate volume on MRI in subjects with Parkinson’s disease without cognitive impairment (PD), Parkinson’s disease with dementia with Lewy bodies (PD + DLB), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and normal control subjects. To examine the relationship between caudate volume and cognitive impairment, depression and movement disorder. Method: Whole brain and caudate volumes were segmented from volumetric 1.5-tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of older subjects with PD (n = 28; mean age 75.5 years), PD + DLB (n = 20; 73.0 years), AD (n = 27; 77.5 years) and normal controls (n = 35; 74.9 years). Results: Subjects with AD had significantly reduced whole brain and caudate volume compared to controls and those with PD. Caudate atrophy in AD was proportionate to whole brain atrophy. There were no significant differences in whole brain or caudate volume between controls, PD and PD + DLB. There were no significant correlations between caudate volume and either global cognitive function, executive performance or processing speed. Conclusions: Caudate atrophy occurs in AD but not PD without dementia. Caudate atrophy is not regionally specific but part of generalised brain volume loss. Structural changes in the caudate, as assessed by in vivo MRI, do not appear to contribute to the cognitive impairment observed amongst patients with PD, PD + DLB or AD. Results indicate that the executive and attentional dysfunctions associated with PD and DLB are unlikely to be a direct and specific consequence of caudate atrophy as assessed on MRI.

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