Resting state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) has been previously shown to be a promising tool for the assessment of early Parkinson's disease (PD). In order to assess whether changes within the basal ganglia network (BGN) are disease specific or relate to neurodegeneration generally, BGN connectivity was assessed in 32 patients with early PD, 19 healthy controls and 31 patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Voxel-wise comparisons demonstrated decreased connectivity within the basal ganglia of patients with PD, when compared to patients with AD and healthy controls. No significant changes within the BGN were seen in AD, when compared to healthy controls. Moreover, measures of functional connectivity extracted from regions within the basal ganglia were significantly lower in the PD group. Consistent with previous radiotracer studies, the greatest change when compared to the healthy control group was seen in the posterior putamen of PD subjects. When combined into a single component score, this method differentiated PD from AD and healthy control subjects, with a diagnostic accuracy of 81%. Rs-fMRI can be used to demonstrate the aberrant functional connectivity within the basal ganglia of patients with early PD. These changes are likely to be representative of patho-physiological basal ganglia dysfunction and are not associated with generalised neurodegeneration seen in AD. Further studies are necessary to ascertain whether this method is sensitive enough to detect basal ganglia dysfunction in prodromal PD, and its utility as a potential diagnostic biomarker for premotor and early motoric disease.
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Alzheimer's disease, Basal ganglia, Functional connectivity, Parkinson's disease, Parkinsonism, fMRI, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Alzheimer Disease, Basal Ganglia, Female, Functional Neuroimaging, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Nerve Net, Parkinson Disease, Sensitivity and Specificity