Corticobasal Degeneration

Corticobasal degeneration is a type of dementia caused by frontotemporal degeneration. Corticobasal degeneration is sometimes used interchangeably with the term corticobasal syndrome, but it is more accurately reserved for a particular pathologic diagnosis from an autopsy, whereas corticobasal syndrome is the term used to describe the clinical symptoms (which can sometimes be caused pathologically by Alzheimer’s disease instead of corticobasal degeneration).  It is also sometimes referred to as “atypical parkinsonism”. Corticobasal degeneration is a progressive disease that shortens lifespan.

Corticobasal degeneration affects motor function early-on, not just cognitive function like in Alzheimer’s disease. A person may develop changes in how one side of their body moves, with it becoming more stiff, having abnormal muscle contractions (dystonia), or feeling like a limb is not doing what they want it to do (apraxia).  Slowness in movement (bradykinesia) can also occur. Cognitively, a person can develop problems with executive function, language, math, or visuospatial function early-on, more so than memory. A person with corticobasal degeneration may be more aware of their abnormal symptoms than a person with Alzheimer’s disease, who often does not realize their memory is as affected as it is.

There is no cure for corticobasal degeneration. A comprehensive evaluation can clarify if a person’s motor and cognitive decline are caused by one unifying diagnosis like corticobasal syndrome/degeneration. Anticipatory guidance in corticobasal degeneration is important because the early motor symptoms can result in safety issues even in a mild stage of disease.   Recommended therapies may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and/or swallow therapy.

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