A new, non-invasive method to track the progression of Parkinson’s disease could help evaluate experimental treatments to slow or stop the progression of the disease, scientists say.
Researchers from the University of Florida (UF) in the US used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show areas where Parkinson’s disease and related conditions cause progressive decline in brain activity.
While current treatments focus on controlling symptoms, biomarkers provide a quantifiable way to measure how medications address not just symptoms, but the neurological changes behind them.
Previous studies have used imaging techniques that require the injection of a drug that crosses the blood-brain barrier.
“Our technique does not rely upon the injection of a drug. Not only is it non-invasive, it’s much less expensive,” said David Vaillancourt, a professor in UF’s Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology.
Researchers, including those from the Medical University of South Carolina, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate five areas of the brain that are key to movement and balance.
A year after the baseline study, the 46 Parkinson’s patients in the study showed declining function in two areas: the primary motor cortex and putamen.
Parkinson’s-related disorders evaluated in the study also showed declines, researchers said.
The 13 subjects with multiple system atrophy had reduced activity in three of the five areas, while the 19 with progressive supranuclear palsy showed declines in all five areas.
The brain activity of the 34 healthy control subjects did not change.
“For decades, the field has been searching for an effective biomarker for Parkinson’s disease,” said Debra Babcock, programme director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
“This study is an example of how brain imaging biomarkers can be used to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders,” said Babcock.
The study was published in the journal Neurology.