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April 1969

Parkinson's Syndrome

Author Affiliations

Durham, NC
From the Divisions of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Duke University Medical Center and the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital, Durham, NC.

Arch Neurol. 1969;20(4):440-441. doi:10.1001/archneur.1969.00480100116016

JAMES Parkinson (1755-1824), a general practitioner in London, was a man of many talents.1,2 He made major scientific contributions in paleontology and geology, and he was a prominent political reformer. Like-wise, in the field of medicine he wrote on a variety of subjects, the best remembered of which is the syndrome that now bears his name.3-6

Parkinson's graphic description established paralysis agitans as a recognizable entity. However, additional clinical features have since been described, including a distinction between the rigidity and the akinesia occurring in this syndrome.7 In some cases there is an initiating cause such as encephalitis lethargica,8,9 but in the majority the etiology remains unknown.

Parkinson had no autopsy material, and predicted erroneously that the lesions of paralysis agitans would be found in the cervical spinal cord. Later pathological studies of idiopathic parkinsonism have shown characteristic abnormalities in the brain, consisting of widespread