The hypothalamus in Parkinson Disease

R. Sandyk, R. P. Iacono, C. R. Bamford

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62 Scopus citations


It is currently believed that Parkinson disease (PD) is due to a degenerative process that independently damages multiple areas of the central and peripheral nervous system. Loss of nigrostriatal dopamine is now widely recognized as being directly related to the motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonian patients also exhibit symptoms and signs suggestive of hypothalamic dysfunction (e.g. dysautonomia, impaired heat tolerance). The latter clinical features are supported by pathological, biochemical and endocrinological findings. Lewy body formation has been demonstrated in every nucleus of the hypothalamus, specifically the tuberomamillary and posterior hypothalamic. Preferential involvement of the hypothalamus was also noted in patients after post-encephalitic parkinsonism. Loss of dopamine (30-40%) in the hypothalamus of affected patients has been shown in recent studies, and is compatible with the reported abnormalities of growth hormone release in response to L-dopa administration, elevated plasma levels of MSH, and reduced CSF levels of somatostatin and beta-endorphins in these patients. Deranged immunological mechanisms have been found in PD patients including the presence of autoantibodies against sympathetic ganglia neurons, adrenal medulla and caudate nucleus. On the evidence of on pathological studies demonstrating the early vulnerability of the hypothalamus in aging and PD, and the known role of the hypoth lamus in immune modulation, we expect that it will be shown that primary damage ot the hypothalamus leads to subsequent secondary degeneration of structures receiving direct projections from the hypothalamus. Within this framework, the dopaminergic systems may be damaged, since striatal dopamine synthesis and receptor sensitivity have been shown to be regulated by ACTH and alpha-MSH through direct arcuate nucleus-striatal projections. We also demonstrate that virtually all other areas well known to be impacted upon in Parkinson disease receive significant hypothalamic peptidergic projections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalThe Italian Journal of Neurological Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Parkinson disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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