Subthalamic nucleus and motor cortex connectivity impaired in Parkinson’s disease

Kurani et al. 2014 Neurobiology of Aging

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Previous research has indicated increased functional connectivity between subthalamic nucleus (STN) and sensorimotor cortex in off-medication Parkinson’s disease (PD) compared with control subjects. It is not clear if the increase in functional connectivity between STN and sensorimotor cortex occurs in de novo PD, which is before patients begin dopamine therapy. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was carried out in 20 de novo (drug na├»ve) patients with PD (Hoehn and Yahr stage: I-II), 19 patients with moderate PD (Hoehn and Yahr stage: II-III), and 19 healthy controls. The functional connectivity analysis in de novo and moderate PD patients focused on the connectivity of the more affected STN and the sensorimotor cortex. Using resting-state functional connectivity analysis, we provide new evidence that people with de novo PD and off-medicated moderate PD have increased functional connectivity between the more affected STN and different regions within the sensorimotor cortex. The overlapping sensorimotor cortex found in both de novo and moderate PD had functional connectivity values that correlated positively with the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale part III. This key finding suggests that changes in functional connectivity between STN and sensorimotor cortex occur early in the disease following diagnosis and before dopamine therapy.