Cleveland Clinic Leads a Consortium Targeting a Little Known Form of Dementia

Jun 19, 2017

An autopsy showed that Robin Williams suffered from the early stages of Lewy Body Dementia, a condition similar to Parkinson's. Lewy bodies are misfolded protein deposits that disable parts of the brain.
Credit EVA RINALDI / WIKIPEDIA

The Cleveland Clinic is leading a national effort to develop new ways to diagnose and treat a poorly known disease that affects around 1.4 million Americans.

Lewy Body Dementia is related to Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s but has its own set of symptoms and disease progression.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the Cleveland Clinic $6 million to set-up the first consortium to study the disease.

Dr. James Leverenz, director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Brain Health Center, heads the effort.

He says Lewy Body Dementia falls between those better known conditions.


“You can see memory loss like you see with Alzheimer’s. You can see some of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s; the slowing of movement, the stooped posture, sometimes a tremor. You also tend to see something you see in later stage Parkinson’s, visual hallucinations and an unusual sleep disorder where people act their dreams out at night.”

He says the new nine member consortium will develop diagnostic tools for Lewy Body Dementia and coordinate clinical trials.

Leverenz says an autopsy of Robin Williams showed that the actor/comedian suffered from the early stages of Lewy Body Dementia.