Corticobasal syndrome (CBS)

Corticobasal syndrome (CBS) is a rare condition in which parts of the brain become damaged and begin to shrink.

The symptoms of corticobasal syndrome (CBS) include problems with movement, language, memory and visual perception (how the brain interprets information that comes from the eyes). CBS usually affects people aged between 60 and 80.

Problems with movement may include:

  • being stiff or slow
  • having jerky movements
  • problems with balance
  • problems with coordination (usually on one side of the body).

As a result, CBS is often diagnosed by a doctor who specialises in movement disorders (usually a neurologist), rather than a health professional at a memory service who specialises in dementia. However, a person who has CBS may also have problems with their thinking and perception. This can include problems with their memory, concentration and decision-making.

CBS is sometimes referred to as ‘corticobasal degeneration’ or CBD. The terms CBS and CBD describe the same condition.

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It can be difficult to tell that a person has CBS rather than a more common type of dementia. Something that can make CBS stand out is how it affects a person’s language skills. They may:

  • find it difficult to read words and letters
  • stutter or find it difficult to speak fluently
  • use the wrong word – for example they may say ‘I taken the dog for a walk’ rather than ‘I took the dog for a walk’.

CBS may affect a person’s ability to work out how the things they see are arranged in space (visuospatial skills). This can make it difficult for them to judge how far away objects are, which may mean they fall or bump into things.

There is currently no cure for CBS or a way to slow down the disease that causes it. However, drugs may help to reduce some of the symptoms, for example donepezil or memantine to help with symptoms related to memory and thinking. Other drugs can reduce the physical symptoms, such as muscle stiffness, jerky movements and bladder problems. A person with CBS might also benefit from speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

PSP Association has a website and a helpline that give people affected by CBS information and support. See Rarer types of dementia - other resources.

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