A new study funded by the US National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has evaluated the use of a newly developed predictive tool for cognitive deficits in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The new risk calculator is expected to predict the prospect of developing dementia, in turn aiding in the design of clinical trials to find appropriate treatments for prevention of cognitive effects of Parkinson’s disease.

Research was led by Harvard Medical School Neurogenomics Lab and Parkinson Personalised Medicine Programme head Dr Clemens Scherzer.

The team investigated the clinical and genetic risk factors associated with dementia using data from 3,200 patients, which included more than 25,000 individual clinical assessments.

NINDS programme director Margaret Sutherland said: “This study includes both genetic and clinical assessments from multiple groups of patients, and it represents a significant step forward in our ability to effectively model one of the most troublesome non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease.”

"It represents a significant step forward in our ability to effectively model one of the most troublesome non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease."

Information from the evaluation was then used to build a computer-based risk calculator to predict the chance of a patient developing cognitive deficits.

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The new project is designed to address the concern with current options, which require recruitment of hundreds of participants for clinical trials due to variability among the patients.

The tool’s ability to allow identification and selection of patients at high dementia risk is expected to enable the design of trials with a manageable number of subjects.

Research also showed that the risk of memory loss is associated with the formal education of a patient, with more years providing greater protection against cognitive deficits.

Dr Scherzer in collaboration with the International Genetics of Parkinson’s Disease Progression (IGPP) Consortium intends to further improve the risk score calculator.