Modern Brainstem MRI Techniques for the Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinsonisms

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The brainstem is the earliest vulnerable structure in many neurodegenerative diseases like in Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) or Parkinson’s disease (PD). Up-to-now, MRI studies have mainly focused on whole-brain data acquisition. Due to its spatial localization, size, and tissue characteristics, brainstem poses particular challenges for MRI. We provide a brief overview on recent advances in brainstem-related MRI markers in Parkinson’s disease and Parkinsonism’s. Several MRI techniques investigating brainstem, mainly the midbrain, showed to be able to discriminate PD patients from controls or to discriminate PD patients from atypical parkinsonism patients: iron-sensitive MRI, nigrosome imaging, neuromelanin-sensitive MRI, diffusion tensor imaging and advanced diffusion imaging. A standardized multimodal brainstem-dedicated MRI approach at high resolution able to quantify microstructural modification in brainstem nuclei would be a promising tool to detect early changes in parkinsonian syndromes.

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