Progression of Parkinson’s Disease and Substantia Nigra

Abstract
There is a clear need to develop non-invasive markers of substantia nigra progression in Parkinson’s disease. We previously found elevated free-water levels in the substantia nigra for patients with Parkinson’s disease compared with controls in single-site and multi-site cohorts. Here, we test the hypotheses that free-water levels in the substantia nigra of Parkinson’s disease increase following 1 year of progression, and that baseline free-water levels in the substantia nigra predict the change in bradykinesia following 1 year. We conducted a longitudinal study in controls (n = 19) and patients with Parkinson’s disease (n = 25). Diffusion imaging and clinical data were collected at baseline and after 1 year. Free-water analyses were performed on diffusion imaging data using blinded, hand-drawn regions of interest in the posterior substantia nigra. A group effect indicated free-water values were increased in the posterior substantia nigra of patients with Parkinson’s disease compared with controls (P = 0.003) and we observed a significant group × time interaction (P < 0.05). Free-water values increased for the Parkinson's disease group after 1 year (P = 0.006), whereas control free-water values did not change. Baseline free-water values predicted the 1 year change in bradykinesia scores (r = 0.74, P < 0.001) and 1 year change in Montreal Cognitive Assessment scores (r = -0.44, P = 0.03). Free-water in the posterior substantia nigra is elevated in Parkinson's disease, increases with progression of Parkinson's disease, and predicts subsequent changes in bradykinesia and cognitive status over 1 year. These findings demonstrate that free-water provides a potential non-invasive progression marker of the substantia nigra. Longitudinal Changes in SN 2015

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