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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Neurologists’ diagnostic accuracy of depression and cognitive problems in patients with parkinsonism

Angela EP Bouwmans1* and Wim EJ Weber12

Author affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, PO Box 5800, Maastricht, AZ, 6202, Netherlands

2 Division of Movement Disorders, Department of Neurology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, Netherlands

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Citation and License

BMC Neurology 2012, 12:37  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-37

Published: 15 June 2012



Depression and cognitive impairment (CI) are important non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and related syndromes, but it is not clear how well they are recognised in daily practice. We have studied the diagnostic performance of experienced neurologists on the topics depression and cognitive impairment during a routine encounter with a patient with recent-onset parkinsonian symptoms.


Two experienced neurologists took the history and examined 104 patients with a recent-onset parkinsonian disorder, and assessed the presence of depression and cognitive impairment. On the same day, all patients underwent a Hamilton Depression Rating Scale test, and a Scales for Outcomes in Parkinson’s Disease-Cognition-test (SCOPA-COG).


The sensitivity of the neurologists for the topic depression was poor: 33.3%. However, the specificity varied from 90.8 to 94.7%. The patients’ sensitivity was higher, although the specificity was lower. On the topic CI, the sensitivity of the neurologists was again low, in a range from 30.4 up to 34.8%: however the specificity was high, with 92.9%. The patients’ sensitivity and specificity were both lower, compared to the number of the neurologists.


Neurologists’ intuition and clinical judgment alone are not accurate for detection of depression or cognitive impairment in patients with recent-onset parkinsonian symptoms because of low sensitivity despite of high specificity.

Trial registration


Mood disorder; Dementia; Non-motor; Parkinson’s disease