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Funded Studies

Tau Imaging in Parkinson's Disease

Study Rationale:
A substantial proportion of individuals with Parkinson's disease develop cognitive
impairment, or difficulty with thinking abilities. The basis for these changes is poorly
understood. We now can image the deposition of two abnormal proteins that accumulate in the brains of older individuals. These proteins, beta-amyloid and tau, can be imaged using positron emitting tomography (a type of brain imaging technique; PET) scanning. These proteins are common in older people and in those with Alzheimer's disease but we do not fully understand how often they occur in people with Parkinson's disease (PD), nor do we know their effects in those with Parkinson's.

We aim to examine the presence of beta-amyloid and tau accumulation in people with
PD and to examine their association with cognitive function.

Study Design:
We will recruit individuals with Parkinson's disease with and without mild cognitive
impairment (MCI). These individuals will undergo detailed cognitive assessment of
abilities such as memory, attention and problem solving. Then, individuals will undergo
one PET scan designed to image the presence of beta-amyloid and another PET scan
designed to assess the presence of tau. Subjects will also have an MRI scan of the brain.
All imaging will be performed on a single day and cognitive testing will be performed on another day. We will examine the data for relationships between beta-amyloid, tau and cognitive function.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:
In one or two sentences, explain how the project holds potential to impact the way Parkinson's is
diagnosed and/or treated. Approximately 50 words
Information from this study will help us understand the basis of cognitive impairment
in PD. As new treatments are developed, this may help us understand which people with Parkinson's might benefit.

Next Steps for Development:
The types of scans we are using will be generally available in hospitals and clinics.
Should these results prove useful, they can be employed in larger scale studies and in
clinical applications.


  • Joel Kramer, PsyD

    San Francisco, CA United States

  • William Jagust, MD

    Berkeley, CA United States

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