Indexed on: 26 Jun '13Published on: 26 Jun '13Published in: European neurology
Pigmented neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and locus coeruleus (LC) show decreased numbers differentially in Parkinson's disease (PD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Recent reports have described that fast spin-echo T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by a 3-tesla machine can visualize neuromelanin-related contrast of the noradrenergic and dopaminergic neurons respectively in the LC and the SNc. Using neuromelanin MRI at 3 T, we investigated possible alterations of these catecholaminergic neurons in 32 PD and 9 MSA patients, and compared the results with those of 23 normal volunteers. The contrast ratio of the LC and SNc was decreased in MSA and PD patients, most prominently in the LC in MSA patients. The contrast ratio of the SNc was correlated with the Hoehn-Yahr stage of PD and the severity of neuroradiological abnormalities in MSA. These results indicate a potential diagnostic value of neuromelanin MRI to distinguish MSA patients from normal and PD patients.