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The effect of dopamine replacement therapy on cortical structure in Parkinson's disease.

AIMS: To explore the cortical structural reorganization in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients under chronic dopamine replacement therapy (DRT) in cross-sectional and longitudinal data and determine whether these changes were associated with clinical alterations.

METHODS: A total of 61 DRT-treated, 60 untreated PD patients, and 61 normal controls (NC) were retrospectively included. Structural MRI scans and neuropsychological tests were conducted. Cortical thickness and volume were extracted based on FreeSurfer and were analyzed using general linear model to find statistically significant differences among three groups. Correlation analyses were performed among significant cortical areas, medication treatment (duration and dosage), and neuropsychological tests. Longitudinal cortical structural changes of patients who initiated DRT were analyzed using linear mixed-effect model.

RESULTS: Significant cortical atrophy was primarily observed in the prefrontal cortex in treated patients, including the cortical thickness of right pars opercularis and the volume of bilateral superior frontal cortex (SFC), left rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), right lateral orbital frontal cortex, right pars orbitalis, and right rostral middle frontal cortex. A negative correlation was detected between the left SFC volume and levodopa equivalent dose (LED) (r = -0.316, p = 0.016), as well as the left rACC volume and medication duration (r = -0.329, p = 0.013). In the patient group, the left SFC volume was positively associated with digit span forward score (r = 0.335, p = 0.017). The left SFC volume reduction was longitudinally correlated with increased LED (standardized coefficient = -0.077, p = 0.001).

CONCLUSION: This finding provided insights into the influence of DRT on cortical structure and highlighted the importance of drug dose titration in DRT.

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