Progression of grey and white matter brain damage in Parkinson's disease: a critical review of structural MRI literature.

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The current review summarizes the current knowledge on longitudinal cortical and subcortical grey and white matter MRI findings assessed using T1-weighted and one-tensor diffusion-weighted MRI in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. Results were reviewed according to disease duration, disease severity and cognitive impairment. The most consistent findings are those showing a progressive cortical atrophy accumulation in caudate, putamen, temporal/hippocampal, frontal and parietal areas in de novo PD cases and in the early/middle phase of the disease, with the achievement of a plateau in the later stage. Analyzing results according to the patient cognitive status, only a few studies used longitudinal MRI metrics to predict mild cognitive impairment or dementia conversion in PD patients, suggesting that atrophy of the hippocampus, fronto-temporal areas, caudate, thalamus and accumbens might play a role in this process. Stratifying patients according to disease severity, findings appear partially controversial, although showing a progressive atrophy of basal ganglia over 1 year of follow up and a widespread cortical thinning over 3-6 years in mild to moderate PD patients. Finally, microstructural damage of the main motor and associative WM tracts seems to be present, and rapidly progress, even in the early phase of PD. The utility of structural MRI metrics as biomarkers of PD progression and their role in improving the accuracy of disease progression prediction is still debated.

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