Researchers from the University of Melbourne have established how two diseases that present in similar ways are in fact quite different. Their results distinguishing between progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) have been published in the Journal of Neuropsychology. PSP and PD have overlapping symptoms but remain difficult to distinguish. However, research led by Dr. Lee Young-Eun Claire now suggests that people with PSP experience more severe and extensive cognitive impairments than those with PD early on. In particular, the study indicates that patients with PSP experience more severe and extensive impairments in higher order functions such as planning, abstract thinking, memory retrieval than those with PD. Lee said the two conditions are so similar that in some cases, patients with PSP often go undiagnosed for the main part of their illness. “PD and PSP are the two of the most common forms of neurodegenerative diseases resulting in loss of balance and deterioration in mobility,” said Lee. “Telling these differences apart can be challenging because most patients with PSP do not develop distinctive symptoms such as paralysis or weakness of the eye muscles and episodes of frequent falling until later stages,” she said. While the study sample was small, the results indicate that cognitive profiles may aid differential diagnosis in earlier stages. There are no current treatments for PSP.