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Corticobasal Degeneration
Signs and Symptoms

The gradual loss of brain tissue and symptoms typically begin between ages 45 and 70. Initial symptoms include stiffness; shaky, slow or clumsy movements; and difficulty with speech and comprehension.

Other symptoms include:

  • Balance — Difficulty walking and balancing
  • Memory — Short-term memory problems, such as repeating questions or misplacing objects
  • Muscle Control — Difficulty controlling muscles of the face and mouth
  • Speech — Progressive difficulty speaking and difficulty comprehending language

Symptoms related to muscle control usually begin on one side of the body and spread gradually to the other.

There may be difficulties in completing specific tasks, such as opening a door or brushing one's teeth or using tools such as a can opener. When a leg is affected, a patient may have problems with complex movements such as dancing. As the disease progresses, a patient may begin to trip and fall. A patient also may experience uncontrollable movement of an arm or leg.

In the past, patients have been diagnosed on the basis of movement problems that appear similar to Parkinson's disease. CBD patients also experience many symptoms that are not characteristic of Parkinson's and it is sometimes referred to as a "Parkinson's-plus"' syndrome.

Some patients experience memory or behavioral problems. They may have difficulty with expression of language, such as finding the right word or name. Reading, writing and simple mathematical calculations also may be impaired. Personality changes, inappropriate behavior and repetitive and compulsive activities similar to those in frontotemporal dementia are common in CBD.

A person with the disease often becomes immobile five years after symptoms emerge. Within 10 years, pneumonia or other bacterial infections may lead to life-threatening complications.

Significant advances in the understanding of CBD have been made and the UCSF Memory and Aging Center is actively involved in researching the cause and course of the disease.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Neurology and Neurosurgery

Memory and Aging Center
1500 Owens St., Suite 320
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-6880
Fax: (415) 476-4800
Appointment information