We set out to determine whether changes in resting-state cortico-cortical functional connectivity are a feature of early-stage Parkinson's disease (PD), explore how functional coupling might evolve over the course of the disease and establish its relationship with clinical deficits.
Whole-head magnetoencephalography was performed in an eyes-closed resting-state condition in 70 PD patients with varying disease duration (including 18 recently diagnosed, drug-naive patients) in an “OFF” medication state and 21 controls. Neuropsychological testing was performed in all subjects. Data analysis involved calculation of three synchronization likelihood (SL, a general measure of linear and non-linear temporal correlations between time series) measures which reflect functional connectivity within (local) and between (intrahemispheric and interhemispheric) ten major cortical regions in five frequency bands.
Recently diagnosed, drug-naive patients showed an overall increase in alpha1 SL relative to controls. Cross-sectional analysis in all patients revealed that disease duration was positively associated with alpha2 and beta SL measures, while severity of parkinsonism was positively associated with theta and beta SL measures. Moderately advanced patients had increases in theta, alpha1, alpha2 and beta SL, particularly with regard to local SL. In recently diagnosed patients, cognitive perseveration was associated with increased interhemispheric alpha1 SL.
Increased resting-state cortico-cortical functional connectivity in the 8–10 Hz alpha range is a feature of PD from the earliest clinical stages onward. With disease progression, neighboring frequency bands become increasingly involved. These findings suggest that changes in functional coupling over the course of PD may be linked to the topographical progression of pathology over the brain.