RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Measuring brain stem and cerebellar damage in parkinsonian syndromes using diffusion tensor MRI.

Neurology 2006 December 27
OBJECTIVE: To use diffusion tensor MRI to quantify and compare degeneration of the pons and cerebellar peduncles in multiple system atrophy (MSA), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and Parkinson disease (PD) and to relate changes in diffusion measures to clinical features and localized atrophy.

METHODS: We used a region-of-interest approach to measure changes in fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity in the middle cerebellar peduncles, decussation of the superior cerebellar peduncles, and pons in 17 patients with MSA, 17 with PSP, 12 with PD, and 12 healthy volunteers. We also evaluated atrophy of the cerebellar peduncles and pons on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images in patients with MSA and PSP.

RESULTS: In MSA, fractional anisotropy was markedly reduced in the middle cerebellar peduncles, and mean diffusivity increased both here and in the pons compared with other groups, whereas in PSP, mean diffusivity was strikingly increased in the decussation of superior cerebellar peduncles. Cerebellar ataxia was related to mean diffusivity in the middle cerebellar peduncles (r = 0.71, p = 0.001) and pons (r = 0.60, p = 0.01) in MSA. Diffusion measures were related to localized atrophy in both MSA and PSP.

CONCLUSIONS: Diffusion tensor MRI can be used to quantify neurodegenerative processes in different brain stem and cerebellar structures in multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy during life, and may have diagnostic value. Larger studies of early, undifferentiated parkinsonian syndromes are indicated to provide estimates of the relative diagnostic value of diffusion measures, atrophy measures, and visual assessment of scans.

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