Magnetic resonance imaging markers for early diagnosis of Parkinson’ s disease☆▾

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by selective and progressive degeneration, as well as loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. In PD, approximately 60-70% of nigrostriatal neurons are degenerated and 80% of content of the striatal dopamine is reduced before the diagnosis can be established according to widely accepted clinical diagnostic criteria. This condition describes a stage of disease called “prodromal”, where non-motor symptoms, such as olfactory dysfunction, constipation, rapid eye movement behaviour disorder, depression, precede motor sign of PD. Detection of prodromal phase of PD is becoming an important goal for determining the prognosis and choosing a suitable treatment strategy. In this review, we present some non-invasive instrumental approaches that could be useful to identify patients in the prodromal phase of PD or in an early clinical phase, when the first motor symptoms begin to be apparent. Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and advanced MRI techniques, such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging, diffusion-weighted and diffusion tensor imaging and functional MRI, are useful to differentiate early PD with initial motor symptoms from atypical parkinsonian disorders, thus, making easier early diagnosis. Functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging techniques can show abnormalities in the olfactory system in prodromal PD.

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