Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinsonian Syndrome: A Systematic Review

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Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allows measuring fractional anisotropy and similar microstructural indices of the brain white matter. Lower than normal fractional anisotropy as well as higher than normal diffusivity is associated with loss of microstructural integrity and neurodegeneration. Previous DTI studies in Parkinson’s disease (PD) have demonstrated abnormal fractional anisotropy in multiple white matter regions, particularly in the dopaminergic nuclei and dopaminergic pathways. However, DTI is not considered a diagnostic marker for the earliest Parkinson’s disease since anisotropic alterations present a temporally divergent pattern during the earliest Parkinson’s course. This article reviews a majority of clinically employed DTI studies in PD, and it aims to prove the utilities of DTI as a marker of diagnosing PD, correlating clinical symptomatology, tracking disease progression, and treatment effects. To address the challenge of DTI being a diagnostic marker for early PD, this article also provides a comparison of the results from a longitudinal, early stage, multicenter clinical cohort of Parkinson’s research with previous publications. This review provides evidences of DTI as a promising marker for monitoring PD progression and classifying atypical PD types, and it also interprets the possible pathophysiologic processes under the complex pattern of fractional anisotropic changes in the first few years of PD. Recent technical advantages, limitations, and further research strategies of clinical DTI in PD are additionally discussed.

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