Neuropathology of autonomic dysfunction in synucleinopathies

Elizabeth A. Coon, Jeremy K. Cutsforth-Gregory, Eduardo E. Benarroch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The synucleinopathies—Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, multiple system atrophy, and pure autonomic failure—result from distinct patterns of abnormal α-synuclein aggregation throughout the nervous system. Autonomic dysfunction in these disorders results from variable involvement of the central and peripheral autonomic networks. The major pathologic hallmark of Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies is Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites; of multiple system atrophy, oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions; and of pure autonomic failure, peripheral neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions. Clinical manifestations include orthostatic hypotension, thermoregulatory dysfunction, gastrointestinal dysmotility, and urogenital dysfunction with neurogenic bladder and sexual dysfunction. Strong evidence supports isolated idiopathic rapid eye movement sleep disorder as a significant risk factor for the eventual development of synucleinopathies with autonomic and/or motor involvement. In contrast, some neurologically normal elderly individuals have Lewy-related pathology. Future work may reveal protective or vulnerability factors that allow some patients to harbor Lewy pathology without overt autonomic dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-358
Number of pages10
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Lewy body
  • Parkinson's disease
  • alpha-synuclein
  • autonomic
  • multiple system atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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