Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a progressive condition that affects mobility, vision, speech, and cognition. Symptoms can begin as young as 40, but the average age of diagnosis is often in the 60s.
Individuals with PSP may feel as if they are losing their balance and fall frequently. This is particularly worrisome because there can be a slowed protective response such as putting one’s hand in front to protect oneself during a fall. There may be a slowness and stiffness to the individual’s movements. Walking and other visually-guided activities can be compromised additionally by difficulty with moving the eyes up and down. Eventually the eyes will become fixed in the midline, with loss of voluntary eye movements. Individuals may also report difficulty swallowing and speaking.
Additionally, some individuals with PSP may experience cognitive and personality changes. These changes may affect personality, behavior, and the ability to complete complex activities like planning a meal or managing finances, and can result in visuospatial difficulties. Common changes include:
Microscopic inspection of the brain reveals that PSP is associated with the accumulation of a specific form of misfolded tau. Researchers at the Penn FTD Center and elsewhere are developing medications that are directed towards slowing or blocking the accumulation of tau. Unfortunately, there are few medications available that can help PSP symptomatically. Some individuals can have unprovoked emotional outbursts of laughing or crying, and some medications can help manage these forms of disinhibition.