This project investigated whether structural changes are present in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) of people with mild-to-moderate severity of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Within-subject measures of STN volume and fractional anisotropy (FA) were derived from high-resolution 7Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for 29 subjects with mild-to-moderate PD (median disease duration = 2.3±1.9 years) and 18 healthy matched controls. Manual segmentation of the STN was performed on 0.4 mm in-plane resolution images. FA maps were generated and FA values were averaged over the left and right STN separately for each subject. Motor sign severity was assessed using the Movement Disorders Society Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS). Linear effects models showed that STN volume was significantly smaller in the PD subjects compared to controls (p = 0.01). Further, after controlling for differences in STN volumes within or between groups, the PD group had lower FA values in the STN compared to controls (corrected p ≤ 0.008). These findings demonstrate that morphological changes occur in the STN, which likely impact the function of the hyperdirect and indirect pathways of the basal ganglia and movement control.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was funded by NIH RO1-NS088679, NIH UL1TR000114, NIH R01-NS085188; P41 EB015894; P30 NS076408, MNDrive Fellowship to M.P., and the University of Minnesota Udall center P50 NS098573.