Rehabilitation program based on sensorimotor recovery improves the static and dynamic balance and modifies the basal ganglia neurochemistry: A pilot 1H-MRS study on Parkinson's disease patients

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Abstract

Rehabilitation interventions represent an alternative strategy to pharmacological treatment in order to slow or reverse some functional aspects of disability in Parkinson's disease (PD). To date, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying rehabilitation-mediated improvement in PD patients are still poorly understood. Interestingly, growing evidence has highlighted a key role of the glutamate in neurogenesis and brain plasticity. The brain levels of glutamate, and of its precursor glutamine, can be detected in vivo and noninvasively as “Glx” by means of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). In the present pilot study, 7 PD patients with frequent falls and axial dystonia underwent 8-week rehabilitative protocol focused on sensorimotor improvement. Clinical evaluation and Glx quantification were performed before and after rehabilitation. The Glx assessment was focused on the basal ganglia in agreement with their key role in the motor functions. We found that the rehabilitation program improves the static and dynamic balance in PD patients, promoting a better global motor performance. Moreover, we observed that the levels of Glx within the left basal ganglia were higher after rehabilitation as compared with baseline. Thus, we posit that our sensorimotor rehabilitative protocol could stimulate the glutamate metabolism in basal ganglia and, in turn, neuroplasticity processes. We also hypothesize that these mechanisms could prepare the ground to restore the functional interaction among brain areas deputed to motor controls, which are affected in PD.

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