Parkinson's disease (PD) is frequently associated with mental dysfunction. Domain-specific cognitive deficits are ubiquitous, and although they may not be clinically apparent in all patients, they are demonstrable by neuropsychological testing. Dementia is less frequent but is present significantly more in PD patients than in controls, with a cumulative prevalence rate up to 40% and up to six-fold increased incidence. Cognitive impairment mainly involves executive and visuospatial functions; memory is secondarily impaired with relatively preserved recognition. Qualitatively. the neuropsychological profile of dementia encompasses the same type of deficits found in nondemented PD patients. The dementia seen in PD. therefore, can be described as a dysexecutive syndrome combined with visuospatial dysfunction and behavioural symptoms. Dopaminergic, noradrenergic, serotoninergic, and cholinergic deficits have all been described as the underlying neurochemical impairment, but the strongest evidence exists for a cholinergic dysfunction. Involvement of brainstem nuclei, limbic structures, and cerebral cortex have been suggested as the site, and Lewy body (LB) degeneration and Alzheimer-type changes as the type of pathology underlying the mental dysfunction in PD. Although there is still some controversy as to the site and type of pathology, recent evidence suggests that LB-type degeneration in limbic structures and cerebral cortex, with consequent synaptic and cell loss, is the main pathological state associated with dementia in PD. (C) 2003 Movement Disorder Society.