Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Orthostatic hypotension and cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease: Causation or association?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Claire McDonald, Emerita Professor Julia Newton, Professor David Burn


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Orthostatic hypotension and cognitive impairment are common in Parkinson's disease (PD) and significantly impair quality of life. Orthostatic hypotension and cognitive impairment appear to be interrelated. Whether the relationship is causative or associative remains unclear. The vascular hypothesis proposes that recurrent episodic hypotension results in cerebral hypoperfusion, in turn causing anoxic damage to vulnerable areas of the brain and impaired cognitive function. Support for this hypothesis has come from brain MRI studies showing an association between white matter hyperintensities and a postural drop in blood pressure among PD patients. Alternatively, the association between orthostatic hypotension and cognitive decline in PD may reflect shared underlying synuclein-related pathology affecting common neuroanatomical and neurochemical substrates. Cardiac imaging studies demonstrate noradrenergic denervation early in PD, and cardiac denervation has been associated with poorer cognition. Neurogenic orthostatic hypotension occurs as a result of defective norepinephrine release from sympathetic terminals upon standing. Neuropathological studies have also demonstrated Lewy body pathology in the locus coeruleus; the main source of noradrenaline in the brain. Locus coeruleus norepinephrine levels are reduced in PD patients with dementia when compared with PD patients without. In this review, we examine the evidence for an association between orthostatic hypotension and cognitive impairment in PD. We evaluate the literature supporting the hypothesis that progressive noradrenergic denervation underlies both orthostatic hypotension and cognitive impairment, and we examine studies suggesting that recurrent cerebral hypoperfusion results in cognitive decline in PD. Finally, we explore how modulation of blood pressure and the noradrenergic nervous system may improve cognition in PD. (c) 2016 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society

Publication metadata

Author(s): McDonald C, Newton JL, Burn DJ

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Movement Disorders

Year: 2016

Volume: 31

Issue: 7

Pages: 937-946

Print publication date: 01/07/2016

Online publication date: 19/04/2016

Acceptance date: 09/03/2016

ISSN (print): 0885-3185

ISSN (electronic): 1531-8257



DOI: 10.1002/mds.26632