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  1. Antonio Martin-Bastida1,
  2. Stefan Schwarz2,
  3. Yue Xing2,
  4. Sara Pietracupa1,
  5. David Burn3,
  6. Monty Silverdale4,
  7. Nin Bajaj5,
  8. Donald Grosset6,
  9. Dorothee Auer2,
  10. Piccini Paola1
  1. 1 Imperial College London
  2. 2 University of Nottingham
  3. 3 Newcastle University
  4. 4 Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Greater Manchester
  5. 5 Nottingham University Hospitals
  6. 6 Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow


Introduction Neuromelanin-sensitive (NM) magnetic resonance imaging visualizes dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) in Parkinson's disease (PD), and may be a useful diagnostic marker

Methods Fifty-five patients with early stage PD and 12 age-matched healthy volunteers (HV) underwent 3T MR scanning. SNc volumes were determined according to the threshold of background signal intensity+3SD. SNc volumes were also compared between HV and three PD sub-groups as divided by UPDRS 3 scores with tertile calculations, using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), adjusting by regional volumes and age.

Results PD patients showed marked reductions of SNc volumes compared to HV (p<0.001). Within the PD group, nigral volume reductions were consistent for clinical laterality (p<0.05). Nigral volumes inversely correlated with UPDRS 3 (p<0.01), and were lowest in PD patients in the worst tertile for motor severity, compared to the more mildly affected PD cases (p<0.05) and HV groups (p<0.001).

Discussion Our results confirm that NM-sensitive MR imaging helps distinguish early PD from healthy volunteers. In addition, the significant relationship between nigral volume and motor severity suggests that the method could be developed as a disease biomarker.

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