In Parkinsonian syndromes behavioural symptoms and dementia can be even more debilitating than motor symptoms and are an important predictor for nursing home placement and mortality. Neuropathologically, dementia seems to be primarily related to cortical changes rather than to subcortical alterations. Concerning neurotransmitter systems, the cholinergic system has been proposed to play a key role in cognitive disturbances. Based on studies with patients with Alzheimer disease, the application of cholinesterase inhibitors is vividly discussed also for dementia associated with parkinsonian syndromes. This review focuses on the specific symptoms of dementia in different parkinsonian syndromes and critically questions the effect of cholinergic treatment on cognitive functions in patients with extrapyramidal syndromes and dementia. There is evidence that medication with some cholinesterase inhibitors can enhance cognition as well as activities of daily living in dementia with Parkinson’s disease and seems to reduce behavioural disturbances in both dementia with Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. The effect of treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors in progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration warrants carefully designed studies including a sufficient number of patients and symptom-adopted dementia scales.

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